183: Tommy John Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

Tommy John pitching for the Dodgers.

On this date in 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe replaced the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in the throwing arm of Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Tommy John.

Here are some things you may not have known about what has come to be known as Tommy John Surgery.

At the time he underwent surgery, Tommy John had won 124 games in 10 seasons with the Indians, White Sox and Dodgers. He was known as a soft-tossing sinker ball pitcher who relied on ground balls and double plays. In 1974 with a 13-3 record, John injured the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his left elbow. At the time it was though to be a career-ending injury.

Dr. Frank Jobe, who was a Dodgers team doctor at the time said the chances of John making a complete recovery were 1 in 100. The procedure consists of opening the arm and drilling holes in the ulna and humerus bones near the elbow. A tendon from elsewhere in the body, or from a cadaver, is woven through the holes in a figure-eight pattern and then anchored in place. The recovery time for this procedure ranges from six months for non-pitchers to a year for pitchers. It’s estimated that 80 percent of players recover to their pre-surgery levels of performance.

After missing the entire 1975 season, John returned to baseball in 1976 and won 164 more games in 13 seasons with with Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and Athletics. He retired in 1989 after Mark McGwire, the son of John’s dentist, got two hits of him, saying, “When your dentist’s kid starts hitting you, it’s time to retire.” He won 288 total games, the seventh-most among left-handed pitchers in major league history.

Our question, is Tommy John  in the baseball Hall of Fame?

Today is Revolution Day in Mozambique. In the United States it’s unofficially National Comic Book Day and National One-Hit Wonder Day. It’s the birthday of writer William Faulkner, artist Mark Rothko, writer Shel Silverstein, actor Mark Hamill and actor/musician Will Smith.


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