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Outliers: Orthopedic surgeon gets some big league thanks

By Modern Healthcare
Posted: July 20, 2013 - 12:01 am ET

On July 27, a former patient of Dr. Frank Jobe will stand before a large audience and tell everyone what a great physician Jobe is.

What will make the event different from other patient testimonials is that the patient doing the talking will be former baseball pitching All-Star Tommy John, and he will be speaking at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

While not being inducted into the Hall itself, Jobe, 88, will be formally recognized for his innovative reconstructive tendon procedure that, according to the Hall of Fame, “has helped hundreds of major league players past, present and future extend their baseball careers.”

John, 70, was the first patient the procedure was attempted on, and it has since been dubbed Tommy John surgery. John ended up winning more games after the surgery than he won before it.

“It'll go down in history, and I'll be dead in the grave and they'll still be having Tommy John surgery,” John says, adding that he and Jobe are now forever linked “like Burns and Allen, Abbott and Costello, and Rowan and Martin.”

The surgery was performed in September 1974, after the player

started having problems that July. A star southpaw curveball pitcher, John recalls how he wanted the operation done sooner, but says that Jobe delayed the procedure in order to get a top surgical team in place.

“He said, 'I don't know what I'm doing, and I need as many good surgeons guiding me that I could get,' ” John remembers. “Jobe was honest with me and, as soon as he said that, I knew I had the best surgeon I could find. If he told me to go out to Griffith Park in L.A. and rub dog poop on my elbow, I would have trusted him.”

Follow Outliers on Twitter: @MHOutliers

Baseball All-Star pitcher Tommy John, left, met up with Dr. Jobe last year at Dodger Stadium.
Photo credit: GARY LEONARD

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