Tuesday, June 21, 2011

#208 Tommy John

#208 Tommy John
Tommy John's name is synonymous with the elbow ligament replacement surgery that was patented by Dr. Frank Jobe. I realize that Dr. Jobe has benefited financially from his medical breakthrough, but I can't help but wonder whether he's bitter over it. Wouldn't you think they'd call it Frank Jobe surgery?

Fun facts about Tommy John:

-Tommy was born in Terre Haute, IN. He was a star basketball player in high school, but signed with the Indians in 1961 because he thought his career prospects in baseball were better.

-He was only 20 when he debuted with Cleveland in September 1963. The following May 3, he earned his first career win by shutting out the Orioles on three hits.

-A three-team trade sent John to the White Sox in 1965. To reacquire slugger Rocky Colavito, the Tribe gave up John, Tommie Agee, and Johnny Romano. The young southpaw went 14-7 with a 3.09 ERA in his first season in Chicago.

-In all, Tommy won 82 games with a 2.95 ERA in seven seasons with the Pale Hose. He went to his first All-Star Game in 1968, when he posted a 10-5 record and a 1.98 ERA in an injury-shortened season.

-In December 1971, Chicago dealt him to the Dodgers for slugger Dick Allen. He benefited greatly from pitching for a contender, winning 73 percent of his decisions (40-25) in his first three years in L.A. However, his career looked to be over on July 17, 1974. Pitching against the Expos, he allowed the first two batters to reach in the third inning before blowing out the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow while facing Hal Breeden. In a revolutionary procedure, Dr. Frank Jobe replaced the torn UCL with a ligament from John's right forearm. The rest, as they say, is history.

-Following more than a year of rehabilitation (assisted by teammate and physical fitness guru Mike Marshall), Tommy returned to the Dodger rotation in 1976 and went 10-10 with a 3.09 ERA and a league-best 0.3 home runs allowed per nine innings. He was named N.L. Comeback Player of the Year, and went on to pitch in the big leagues for 14 years post-surgery.

-He had his greatest stretch of success from 1977-1980. He won 20, 17, 21, and 22 games in those four seasons, went to three All-Star Games, and had a pair of second-place finishes in Cy Young voting. He also signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the Yankees prior to the 1979 campaign.

-Tommy managed to be on the losing end of three Yankees-Dodgers World Series: 1977-1978 (LA), and 1981 (NY). But he did his part, with a career 6-3 record and a 2.67 ERA in 14 postseason games.

-Throughout the 1980s, he pitched for the Yankees, Angels, Athletics, and Yankees once again. He retired in 1989 after tying the major league record with 26 seasons played. He had a 288-231 record and a 3.34 ERA, and 2,245 strikeouts.

-Since hanging up his spikes, Tommy has broadcast games for the Twins and done some managing and coaching. He was a pitching coach in the Expos organization in 2002-03 and managed the New York-Penn League's Staten Island Yankees in 2004. From 2007-09, he managed the independent Bridgeport Bluefish. He is not currently in the Hall of Fame, having garnered just 31.7% of the vote in 2009, his final year on the ballot.
#208 Tommy John (back)


  1. Another guy who could pass for one of the Mercury astronauts.

  2. Wow, I don't even recognize him in this card. I don't think I've ever seen him pre-mid-70's.

  3. Tommy John says today that current players think that "Tommy John" is the guy who performed the surgery. So, yeah, Frank's got to be pissed!

  4. I didn't realize that the WhiteSox had red uniforms w/ cut-off sleeves in the '60s---I love the mercury astronaut comment.

  5. As a fan of "The Right Stuff" I also love the comment. He looks a bit like Alan Shepard in pictures I have seen from that era.

  6. Bob/Marc - You could probably rest a can of beer on top of his head.

    Devon - Yeah, I'm used to his late 1980s cards with the hair brushed down in front and his face looking much craggier.

    night owl - Kids today, I tell ya...

    Deadbolt - He was traded too late to be photographed with the White Sox; that's actually an Indians uniform. If you were being sarcastic, I apologize...hard to pick that up on the Internet.