Renowned baseball surgeon Yocum dies at 65 of liver cancer

Lewis Yocum, a giant in the field of orthopedics who saved or extended the careers of scores of baseball players through surgery has died, the Angels announced.

Yocum, 65, had liver cancer, though it was not publicly known.

Yocum will be recalled as one of the greats of the business, someone whom star players would regularly fly cross country to see sometimes only for a second opinion. He started as the Angels' team doctor and served in that role for 36 years, basically his entire career. But in recent decades, he became nationally renowned as one of the foremost orthopedic experts.

"He's a unique person. You don't find people like him around, much less people with his skill set," Angels vice president Tim Mead said. "We can sit here and say it's our loss, but it's a loss for baseball and all his patients. His notoriety for athletics paled in comparison to his contributions to others." 

Roy Halladay, the Phillies' veteran star, became one of the final major stars to make the cross-country trek to consult with Yocum, as Halladay traveled to California earlier this month, and Yocum continued to work despite his illness. When Halladay had shoulder surgery, it was a bit surprising that Yocum didn't perform the operation. Now, it's apparent why.

With a big assist from Will Carroll of Bleacher Report, here are just a few of hundreds diagnosed or operated on by Yocum, including Stephen Strasburg, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jayson Werth, Jordan Zimmermann, Kendrys Morales, Ted Lilly, Robb Nen, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy, John Lackey, Randy Wolf, C.J. Wilson, Francisco Liriano, Billy Wagner, Joakim Soria, Jake Westbrook, Cal Eldred, Scott Erickson and Daniel Hudson.

Once, Greg Maddux came to him with an elbow issue. Yocum diagnosed chips, and recommended no surgery. Turned out to be the right call.

Yocum checked into a hospital about a week ago. The Angels had bestowed the honor of naming their training room after him this month.

Yocum was a rare major figure in sports who was well liked by everyone. Mead recalled Yocum as a man with "a great ability to articulate, a great sense of humor and an even greater ability to make everyone comfortable."

In other words, his bedside manner matched up to his superb surgical hands.

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