Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hall to Honor Tommy John's Savior

Dr. Frank Jobe is one of the world's most renowned orthopedic surgeons, but the general public associate him with the most well known part of his work and his most famous patient.

Jobe pioneered elbow ligament replacement surgery, better known as Tommy John surgery after the Major League left-hander. For his work with baseball, the 88-year old Jobe will be honored on July 27 by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

It all began though in July, 1974 when it was discovered that John had ruptured a ligament in his left elbow and Dr. Jobe told him that surgery was likely. John was 13-3 at the time, the winningest pitcher on the LA Dodgers. A little over two months later (September 24), Dr. Jobe reconstructed John's elbow by using the tendon from the pitcher's right forearm.

John, who debuted in 1963, believed he would return some time during the 1975 season, but rehab was slower than he expected1 and he missed the entire 1975 campaign. We've come to learn since then that John followed the proper protocol. Trying to come back to quickly from such a (then) complex surgery does more harm than good.

John returned on April 16, 1976 with a shaky performance against the Atlanta Braves, but he allowed just three earned runs over his next 21 innings. His elbow was better than ever, and Jobe's technique was the standard for repairing torn elbow ligaments.

John was a good pitcher before the surgery, but got even better afterward with the instability gone from his elbow. He was 31-years old at the time of the surgery and pitched until he was 46. Parts of 26 seasons in all, 288 career victories, three 20-win seasons (1977 with LA, 1978-79 with the Yankees), three top five Cy Young finishes, and a borderline Hall of Fame career.

An internet campaign was started in August, 2012 to have the Hall honor Jobe, who now works as a consultant to the Dodgers.

1 - Gettysburg Times, 8/7/75

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