Baseball's summer of '88, a season perhaps unworthy of chronicling by the likes of David Halberstam or Roger Angell, still contains many awesome memories. As an awkward teenager, I watched in gawky disbelief as they played the first night game at Wrigley Field, and the City of Chicago almost lost the White Sox to St. Petersburg, Fla. Rickey Henderson waved back at me from left field in Comiskey Park, and I took the bus from the suburbs (by myself!) to Clark and Addison to watch Jeff Pico throw a complete-game shutout for the Cubs.
It also was the summer I became a man by running my first fantasy baseball team. The Brownosers. The team was terrible, but better in the second half when I employed a starting rotation of all left-handers, including Jim Deshaies, Dennis Rasmussen, Joe Magrane and Tom Browning.
Yes, the Tom Browning.
My rise to the middle of the fantasy standings was ensured when No. 32 threw a perfect game against the Dodgers. The Reds were an up-and-coming club, managed by riverboat (and dugout) gambler Pete Rose, but still two years away from World Series glory. Browning was a Mark Buehrle-ish lefty with a penchant for doing goofy things like wandering up to a Wrigley rooftop in the middle of a game. But on Sept. 16, 1988, he was Mr. Perfect.
The Reds honored Browning yesterday with a ceremony and bobblehead doll to commemorate what then was the 12th perfect game in major league history. Browning said he can't believe how quickly time has slipped away.
"I think it's terrible it's been 20 years," Browning told MLB.com and others. "I can't believe how fast those 20 years went. I'll tell everyone until my dying day that I'd give all that stuff back to try and do it again. That's how much I enjoyed playing and how fast it went."
Browning also said he enjoyed reminiscing about the perfect game, mentioning that kids-at-the-time Ken Griffey and Kevin Youkilis were at Riverfront Stadium for it.
"People tell me what they were doing," Browning said. "I was doing a show the other night with [former Bengals kicker] Jim Breech, and he told me he was going to the store to get milk, and he got in his car and stayed in his car to listen to the rest of the game before he took off to go back home.
"That's kind of neat you've made some impression on people from one special moment."