yesterday in baseball history

I think it worth noting the birthday yesterday, the 22nd, of Tommy John, who was the first to have the surgery that has since been named after him. (Doctors tend to call it Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) reconstruction – which is why most of us know it as Tommy John surgery.) John was having a great season for the Dodgers in 1974, going 13-3, when he hurt his arm and had the surgery, in September of 74, performed by Dr. Frank Jobe. (Who, perhaps, always refers to it as a Frank Jobe surgery.) After the surgery Jobe put John’s odds of returning to pitching at 1 in 100, but John did come back, going 10-10 in 1976, and then 20-7, 17-10, 21-9, and 22-9 in the next four seasons. John ended up pitching for 26 years, from ’63 to ’89, and going down in medical history, probably because of those 20 win seasons he had after his surgery. The odds of a player coming back from Tommy John surgery is now put at 85  to 92%. Approximately.

Tommy John, of course, had a name that is just naturally euphonious  He also had one of my favorite cards out of the ’71 Topps set, way before he became famous for his operation. As you can see from the back of his card, he was a pretty good pitcher before the surgery too.

tommy john - topps 1971 sm

tommy john - topps 1971 back sm

Happy Birthday Tommy John, wherever you are.

addendum (5/24): I just noticed he signed his name on the card as “Thomas John.” I wonder if that’s what he prefers? Maybe he hates being called Tommy John. Maybe it should be called “Thomas John Surgery.” I don’t think that would have caught on...


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