According to the Los Angeles Angels, Dr, Lewis Yocum, one of the most notable sports medicine practitioners there was, has died.
An orthopedist who followed in the footsteps of Dr. Frank Jobe — the first man to perform Tommy John surgery — Jobe had been the Angels team doctor for many years. In addition, he has performed surgeries and consults for many other teams and players. After Jobe and Dr. James Andrews, Yocum was easily the most commonly-referenced and best known doctor in baseball circles, be it for the surgeries he performed, the second opinions he offered — he was many a fan’s last hope after dire news was reported following a visit to Andrews — or for, sometimes, being involved in a bit of controversy when it came to how best to proceed for a rehabbing pitcher.
Sports medicine has come a long way since the days of trainers telling sore-armed pitchers to rub some dirt on it and get back out there. Guys like Yocum are the reason why.
Bud Selig has released a statement:
“Dr. Lewis Yocum was a giant in the field of sports medicine. He was an invaluable resource to not only the Angels franchise but players throughout all of Major League Baseball, team physicians and the members of the Professional Baseball Athletics Trainers Society. All of our Clubs relied upon Dr. Yocum’s trusted opinion and judgment. Throughout the last 36 years, the lives and careers of countless players benefited from his pioneering expertise, and he made our game on the field better as a result. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Beth, their children, their friends and his many admirers.”
On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.
The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.