Sunday, March 09, 2014

Thank You, Dr. Jobe

Earlier this past week, Dr. Frank Jobe, the surgeon and LA Dodgers doctor who created a revolutionary treatment for baseball players known as "Tommy John surgery," died at the age of 88.

Dr. Jobe, who was an Army medic in World War II and received a Bronze star after successfully escaping being captured by the Germans at the Siege of Bastone, became the Dodgers' team doctor in 1968 and served the club for nearly 50 years.

In 1974, Dodgers' pitcher Tommy John suffered was thought to have been a career-ending elbow injury during a game. Dr. Jobe used John as his "test patient" on a surgery he pioneered, taking a ligament from the wrist of his non-pitching arm, and placing it in the injured elbow. It was the first reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament, and Dr. Jobe gave it only a 5% chance of being successful.

After 18 months of rehab, Tommy John was back on a mound for the Dodgers in 1976. And he went on to pitch in MLB until his retirement in 1988. Dr. Jobe also pioneered reconstructive surgery on the throwing shoulder, which was first performed with success on Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser in 1990.

Today, Tommy John surgery patients now have a better than 92% chance of returning to MLB. It worked wonders on John Lackey, who had the surgery after the 2011 season, and was a completely new pitcher in leading the Red Sox to a 2013 World Series championship. (Every Red Sox fan should thank Dr. Jobe for that.)

The careers of countless pitchers have been saved by Dr. Jobe's procedure. Stars such as Stephen Strasburg, John Franco, Chris Carpenter, Tim Hudson, Joe Nathan, David Wells and Brian Wilson have had TJ surgery and returned as good as they ever were. Can you imagine the quality of MLB had these stars been forced to quit if TJ surgery were not available?

My friend Joe pointed out the other day that when John Smoltz is elected to Hall of Fame (and it could be as soon as next year), he will be the first player inducted to Cooperstown who had Dr. Jobe's ground-breaking procedure. And I'm sure Smoltz won't forget mentioning him that day.

I am fully in agreement that Dr. Frank Jobe deserves his own plaque at Cooperstown. Like Curt Flood and Marvin Miller, what Dr. Jobe did for players off the field and their careers cannot be fully measured. His impact will be felt on the game for as long as baseball is played.

And for that, we thank you, Dr. Jobe. Godspeed, and my deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

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