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Tommy John discusses Dr. Jobe's death on CBS' 'Morning Show'

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

The world of sports medicine lost a pioneer Thursday night when Dr. Frank Jobe passed away at age 88. Dr. Jobe was the first to perform the surgery now known as Tommy John surgery back in 1974. It was performed on, naturally, Dodgers starting pitcher Tommy John.

John took some time Friday morning to join CBS' Morning Show and discuss the passing of his friend and former surgeon.

Full audio: Tommy John discusses Dr. Frank Jobe

Some of the highlights:

Sandy Koufax Surgery? Huh? At the end of the interview, John pointed out that once Dr. Jobe told him that he believed if the medical know-how were in place, that he thought Sandy Koufax may have needed Tommy John surgery. Of course, Koufax was injured in 1964 and battled his pain for two more seasons before finally being forced to retire at age 30 in the midst of a historical stretch of brilliance. At the time it was believed Koufax had an arthritic condition in his elbow, but I'm certainly not gonna question Dr. Jobe. Koufax retired after the 1966 season -- or eight years before Dr. Jobe did the procedure on John.

John discussed how it was determined that he tore his ulnar-collateral ligament (UCL).

"This is ‘74, there's no MRIs, there's no CT scans, there's only X-Ray," said John. "And the only way they could tell if you had a torn ligament in … your elbow is … they held the humerus down and moved my forearm back and forth. And [Dr. Jobe] said ‘that's way too much movement.'”

John said he then tried to rest for about a month and he still couldn't shake the pain while throwing. He even tried to wrap the elbow -- going as much as shoulder to wrist (which was "like throwing a hand grenade") -- but nothing worked.

John said he knew Dr. Jobe was the right man for the procedure because he had humility. Dr. Jobe told John he wouldn't attempt the procedure until he could get six specific other surgeons in the room with him, admitting he wasn't 100 percent sure he knew what he was doing and wanted as many hands on deck as possible. For John, this made him even more sure he wanted Dr. Jobe. He admired the candor.

•Speaking of the humility, John said that Dr. Jobe used to say, "I'm not a great surgeon, I'm a very good surgeon," instead pointing out it was his patients' work ethic that helped make him look good.

•Still, Dr. Jobe definitely was the man for the job. Not only did John come back to pitch for 14 seasons -- going 164-125 while making three All-Star teams -- but he was initially told to start throwing 16 weeks after the procedure.

“He said 16 weeks,” John said as to when he was allowed to start throwing again. “To this day, guys come back from Tommy John surgery, they start throwing a baseball [after] 16 weeks. Now, how Dr. Jobe knew 16 weeks, I don't know. I have no idea, but it's still 16 weeks.”

What a Doctor. What a life (remember, Dr. Jobe served in World War II, landing at Normandy to care for members of the 101st Airborne). Rest in peace, Dr. Jobe.

 
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