Tommy John, the former Dodgers and Angels pitcher, had a whole second career in baseball after Los Angeles orthopedist Frank Jobe replaced the media collateral ligament in John's left elbow with a tendon from another part of John's body. The surgery — tried experimentally after John's elbow popped during the Dodgers' pennant-winning 1974 season, John's best year to that time — had never been done before on a major league pitcher. Since then, dozens if not hundreds of major league players — including many of the game's biggest stars — have had their careers saved by the so-called Tommy John surgery.
Jobe died yesterday at home in Santa Monica at age 88, and there's talk today that Jobe belongs in the baseball Hall of Fame. He was honored at the hall in Cooperstown, NY last year in a ceremony attended by John. This afternoon John spoke about his friend and surgeon on NPR's All Things Considered.
Tommy John, 31 at the time of the injury, went on to pitch until he was 46 years old and to start more games than all but seven pitchers in baseball history. He collected more of his 288 wins after the surgery. "Since the invention of the breaking ball, there has been no more significant development in baseball than Tommy John surgery," says Will Carroll, a baseball writer who specializes in injuries. He explains the ulnar collateral ligament replacement procedure in a piece at Baseball Prospectus from 2004.
* Added: ESPN aired a 30 for 30 short documentary last year on the relationship between Jobe and John.
Plus: A statement from the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.