Dodgers hold ceremony for Jobe
Doctor invented revolutionary Tommy John surgery in 1974
LOS ANGELES -- Dr. Frank Jobe, whose experimental 1974 transplant surgery on Tommy John's elbow ligament revolutionized sports medicine, was honored by the Dodgers before Tuesday night's game.
Participating in the pregame ceremony for Jobe were John, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, Orel Hershiser, Darren Dreifort, Hong-Chih Kuo, Tom Lasorda, Tommy Davis and Maury Wills. Jobe was presented with a framed jersey surrounded by photos of his career.
"If it wasn't for him, I'd have been done at 21," said Dreifort, who went on to a 10-year career but whose body required 19 operations, including two Tommy John procedures. "He should be in the Hall of Fame, not only for all the players whose careers he extended, but for all the doctors he taught to extend the careers of other athletes. Every team in Major League Baseball should honor him, not just the Dodgers."
Although Jobe is best known for inventing Tommy John surgery, he takes greatest pride in the "Jobe Exercises" that are prescribed for pitchers of all organizations at all levels of the game to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.
"It's more important to prevent surgeries" than perform them, he said.
Nonetheless, it is the Tommy John operation that made Jobe famous. Jobe, who has retired from active practice, has performed more than 1,000 of the surgeries and, by his count, 75 current Major Leaguer pitchers have had it.
The operation involves harvesting a non-essential tendon from the opposite wrist or a leg that is used to replace the torn ulnar collateral ligament, which stabilizes the elbow. The new ligament is tied in a figure-8 pattern through holes drilled into the ulna and humerus bones that form the elbow.
Jobe said Sandy Koufax's career ended with the same injury. He said he invented the procedure only after John urged him to find a solution.
"I suggested he take up golf," Jobe recalled. "He said to come up with something. I knew I could fix it, but I didn't know if the body would invade the elbow with blood vessels. The chance of success was pretty poor. I didn't have much faith in it. I watched every start of his carefully, but I waited several years before trying another. I thought it might be a fluke. Now it's done by all the doctors."
Jobe also performed an experimental operation on Hershiser's shoulder in 1990.
"I had 99 wins before he cut me and I finished with 204," Hershiser said. "He's got more wins than I do."
Because of his profound impact on the game, it has been suggested that Jobe be considered for induction in Baseball's Hall of Fame.
"That would be the biggest honor I could get," he said.
Jobe was a medical supply sergeant in the Army's 101st Airborne Division during World War II and was one of the soldiers encircled at Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge. He studied at Loma Linda University in California and completed his residency at USC County Hospital.
He began working with the Dodgers in 1964 and has served as the club's orthopaedic doctor since 1968. In 1965, Dr. Jobe partnered on a handshake with the first team physician in Los Angeles Dodgers history, Dr. Robert Kerlan, to open the Southwestern Orthopaedic Medical Group, which would later be named the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in 1985.
Jobe, 83, was named special adviser to club chairman Frank McCourt earlier this year and was greeted by Frank and Jamie McCourt at the end of the ceremony.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.