Dr. Frank Jobe, Tommy John Surgery Pioneer, Dead at 88


Dr. Frank Jobe

The baseball world is mourning the passing of a man that perhaps did more to change the game of baseball than any one man in the history of the game since Abner Doubleday. Dr. Frank Jobe died yesterday morning. Known for his revolutionary ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction surgical technique first attempted on the wrecked elbow of then-Dodger Tommy John, the list of legendary pitchers that owe their status to Jobe is long indeed.
Some names you might recognize:

Mariano Rivera

Adam Wainwright

Stephen Strasburg

Anibal Sanchez

Rafael Furcal

There are over 1,000 pitchers that owe either an extension or the start of their pitching careers to Dr. Jobe.  I mentioned Furcal in the list because there are an awful lot of position players carrying a small piece of the debt owed to Dr. Jobe.

Since his groundbreaking foray into an aging pitcher’s elbow in 1974, an era of pitching dominance began, and it doesn’t look like it will come to a close until the league decides to shave an inch or two off of the mound, or scoot the rubber back a few feet.

With the knowledge that there was a relatively simple procedure that would cost one season, but would extend a career by six or more seasons, pitchers began throwing harder and harder. The era of the complete game pitcher was relegated to the dustheap, as starters began putting so much into each pitch that they became visibly gassed after six innings. Today, it takes a combination of overwhelming tradition and adrenalin to see a pitcher carry a no-no all the way through.

Furthermore, with the broad adaptation of the technique, there are fewer and fewer young phenoms that don’t make it because of elbow problems, so the quality of the pool of pitchers has improved, thanks again to Dr. Frank Jobe.

Neither did he rest on his laurels. He also began digging into shoulders, saving the career of Orel Hersheiser.  He also developed the “Throwers 10” shoulder exercises that are now the most fundamental of exercises for pitchers.

Fortunately for baseball players, Dr. Jobe was also a teacher, and thanks to his efforts, the technique he pioneered is part of the public body of knowledge in medicine, and is being tweaked ever closer to perfection.  Requiescat in pace, Dr. Jobe, and thank you. By they way, Joba Chamberlain thanks you, too: