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Originator of 'Tommy John surgery' Dr. Frank Jobe dies at 88

Sports medicine pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe died yesterday at 88 years of age.
Sports medicine pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe died yesterday at 88 years of age.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Famed surgeon and sports medicine pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe died yesterday at the age of 88, the Dodgers announced.

Jobe was best known for a procedure in which he removed a tendon from the forearm of pitcher Tommy John, using it to repair the pitcher’s elbow. Now commonplace, the surgery originated by Jobe is known as “Tommy John surgery”.

“Baseball lost a great man and Tommy John lost a great friend,” the former pitcher said. “There are a lot of pitchers in baseball who should celebrate his life and what he did for the game of baseball. My deepest condolences and prayers go out to Beverly and the entire family. He’s going to be missed.”

On July 17th, 1974, John walked off the mound in the top of the third inning in a game against Montreal. He was diagnosed with a ruptured medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left elbow, an injury that previously spelled the end of a player’s career.

Two months later, Jobe performed his revolutionary procedure, saving the pitcher’s career. John went on to win 164 games after the surgery, never missing a start due to elbow problems. The procedure has since been performed on countless pitchers, changing the field of sports medicine forever.

Jobe impacted players of every level from high school to the major leagues.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Dr. Frank Jobe, a great gentleman whose work in Baseball revolutionized sports medicine,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig. “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."

Jobe began his association with the Dodgers in 1964 and took over full-time care of the team in 1968. He was named Special Advisor to the Chairman of the Dodgers seven years ago.

“Frank Jobe is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word,” said Dodger President Stan Kasten. “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.”

Jobe, a native of Greensboro, NC, who studied at Loma Linda University, School of Medicine and did his residency at Los Angeles County Hospital, has often been mentioned as a candidate for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Awards and recognition were many for the surgeon. Jobe received the President’s Award at the Southern California Sports Broadcasters’ annual awards luncheon on Jan. 27, 2014. At their annual dinner in January 2012, Jobe was honored by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation with the Dave Winfield Humanitarian Award. Jobe was inducted by the Baseball Reliquary into the Shrine of the Eternals on July 20, 2012. He was also inducted into the PBATS (Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society) Hall of Fame in the spring of 2012.

Perhaps his greatest baseball honor came on July 27, 2013 in Cooperstown when he was recognized as part of the Hall of Fame awards presentation for his development of Tommy John surgery.

Jobe is survived by his wife, Beverly, four sons—Christopher, Meredith, Cameron and Blair—their spouses and eight grandchildren.

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