Frank Jobe, inventor of Tommy John surgery, passes away at age 88

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Sad news to pass along this evening, as Tommy John surgery pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe has passed away at the age of 88.

Jobe worked for the Dodgers for 50 years and is best known for performing the first-ever unlar collateral ligament reconstructive elbow surgery on left-handed pitcher Tommy John on September 25, 1974. While it was a last-ditch effort to save his career, John went on to pitch 14 more seasons.

The procedure, which would eventually be known as Tommy John surgery, changed the sport and has extended the careers of countless pitchers. Jobe was honored in Cooperstown last July for the groundbreaking surgery, but many have argued that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to think of many people who have had a bigger impact on the game of baseball.

Here’s a statement from Dodgers president Stan Kasten:

“Frank Jobe is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word. His dedication and professionalism in not only helping the Dodgers, but athletes around the world is unparalleled. He was a medical giant and pioneer and many athletes in the past and the future can always thank Frank for finding a way to continue their careers.”

MLB commissioner Bud Selig has also released a statement:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Dr. Frank Jobe, a great gentleman whose work in Baseball revolutionized sports medicine. Since 1974, his groundbreaking Tommy John surgery has revitalized countless careers, especially those of our pitchers. His wisdom elevated not only the Dodgers, the franchise he served proudly for a half-century, but all of our Clubs.”

“Dr. Jobe’s expertise, as well as his enthusiasm to mentor his peers, made the National Pastime stronger. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Dr. Jobe’s family, friends, Dodger colleagues and the many admirers of his pioneering spirit throughout our game.”

Rest in peace, Dr. Jobe. And thanks.

Kirk Gibson home run happened 30 years ago

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With the Dodgers trying to make it back to the World Series for the second year in a row — and trying to win it for the first time in 30 years — it’s worth looking back at the last time they won it. More specifically, it’s worth looking back at the signature moment from the last time they won it. Which, really, was one of baseball’s all-time signature moments.

Yep, I’m talking about Kirk Gibson’s famous game-winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which happened 30 years ago tonight.

All playoff magic for anyone too young to remember Bill Mazeroski’s homer in 1960 is measured against Gibson taking Dennis Eckersley downtown to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 win. Heck, even if you were around in 1960, it’s far less likely that you saw Mazeroski’s homer than it was for you to have seen Gibson’s. Nationally broadcast in prime time to a nation of millions who had not yet fragmented into viewers of hundreds of obscure cable channels and various forms of streaming entertainments, it was a moment that sent shockwaves through the world of sports.

For my part, I was fifteen years-old, sitting in my living room in Beckley, West Virginia watching it as it happened. Like most of the rest of the country, I was convinced that the Dodgers had no chance to beat the mighty Bash Brothers and the 104-win Oakland A’s. Especially given that the Dodgers’ leader, MVP-to-be Gibson, was hobbled and not starting. Even when he was called on to pinch hit, I had no faith that he’d be able to touch Eckersley, the best relief pitcher on the planet, let alone hit the ball with any kind of authority.

But, as Vin said when he called it, the Dodgers’ year was so improbable that, in hindsight, it made perfect sense for Gibson to have done the impossible: