SAN FRANCISCO — Tom (The Flamingo) Brennan would never suggest that his life is worthy of an opera. He had enough trouble Wednesday afternoon just accepting his first National League victory, which he said should have gone to Ken Howell. Howell, after all, struck out eight batters in 3 innings in the Dodgers' 4-2 win over the Giants in front of 19,891 fans in Candlestick Park.
But if Brennan, the only pitcher in the Dodger clubhouse currently reading "Opera Themes and Plots," had to select an opera that best described his 10-year odyssey in baseball, it would be "La Boheme," Puccini's tale of penniless artists struggling to make it in the real world.
"My favorite is Wagner, though," Brennan said. "Lots of Gypsies."
Brennan can relate to Gypsies. At 32, he has yet to find a home in a city with a major league baseball team, although he is making it more and more difficult for the Dodgers to advise him to move along.
Brennan, who went to spring training on a minor league contract but pitched his way onto the Dodger roster, relieved Jerry Reuss with two on and none out in the fifth and the Dodgers holding a 3-1 lead. A second-inning throwing error by Giants' pitcher Bill Laskey on a double-play ball and an obstruction call against shortstop Jose Uribe, who collided with runner Mike Scioscia, set up the first two Dodger runs, which were driven in by Dave Anderson's single and Al Oliver's double. Bill Russell singled home the third run in the top of the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Brennan allowed one run on Chili Davis' sacrifice fly, then struck out Jeff Leonard with the potential tying run on third.
In the sixth, Brennan got into trouble of his own when Bob Brenly nearly decapitated third baseman Pedro Guerrero with a line drive that wound up in the left-field corner. Guerrero, perhaps unhinged, then committed his second error of the day, fumbling Alex Trevino's roller.
After Brad Wellman's sacrifice, Brennan's work was done as Manager Tom Lasorda summoned Howell from the bullpen to face pinch-hitter Scot Thompson.
"I brought Howell in to get a strikeout and he winds up getting eight of 'em," Lasorda said.
Howell struck out the side in the seventh, including Brenly with two runners on, and had two strikeouts in both the eighth and ninth innings, saving Brennan's first win since Aug. 7, 1983, when he shut out Texas, 7-0, while pitching for the Cleveland Indians.
"It (credit for the win) was up to the scorer's discretion and I would have given it to Kenny," Brennan said. "He pitched great.
"That was the Kenny Howell I know. It's a big responsibility to be a short (relief) man in the big leagues, but now that he's got his feet wet, you're going to see more of the same.
"He can throw the ball down the middle and challenge people. He doesn't have to hit the corners."
No such margin of error exists for Brennan, who survives on guile. But having pitched together for Licey in the Dominican Republic, Brennan and Howell have developed an appreciation for each other.
"He's a fighter," Howell said. "He's really determined to play. When you look at his motion (the exaggerated pause on one leg), you laugh and think, 'What the hell's he doing?' But did you notice he's one of the very few pitchers in the league who falls into a fielding position after every pitch?
"And look what he's done since he came here to the Dodgers. He battled his way up to the big club. I think that's amazing."
Howell said Brennan has helped him with his pitching, too.
"Before, when I wasn't throwing real well, he told me, 'You're not yourself,' " Howell said. "And I wasn't. I watched some films and, like Mike (Scioscia) and Steve (Yeager) kept telling me, I was throwing my head on every pitch and overthrowing, and I was out of control."
Indeed, Howell, who issued only five unintentional walks in 51 innings last season, already had walked seven in his first nine innings this season, one reason he went into Wednesday's game with a 0-1 record and a 4.00 earned-run average.
"He's young and he throws hard," Scioscia said. "With every young, hard thrower, you have to expect some erraticness. But all I know is he comes right after hitters with three good pitches."
Scioscia said that Brennan "has to have every pitch complementing every other pitch. But every time he comes in, he's done the job, and that's all you can ask."
Ask Brennan what more he could ask and he smiles.
"It's great to be a Dodger," he said. "They've made me feel like a Dodger all my life. I hope to be perfect every time I go out there, because they've been so great to me.
"I'm taking it one day at a time. That's been my attitude from the beginning. I'll keep coming to the ballpark until they tell me not to."
Why not? The opera isn't over until the fat manager sings.