Nov 27

Tommy John, son to baseball parents: Wake up

Major-leaguer’s son moves business to San Diego, jump-starts discussion on youth injuries

NOVEMBER 27, 2015


Los Angeles Dodgers former pitcher Tommy John praises his late friend, Dr. Frank Jobe during a memorial service at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles Monday, April 7, 2014. Dr. Frank Jobe, was the surgeon who pioneered the elbow procedure that became known as Tommy John surgery and saved the careers of countless pitchers. Jobe died last month at 88. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) The Associated Press


Time exacts a toll on everything, including baseball legacies.

Tommy John was reminded of how memories muddy when he revisited a conversation with former Oakland A’s star Gene Tenace, a bullpen coach at the time for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tenace was working with one of the top pitchers in the organization when a name popped up. “Who’s he, the surgeon?” the player said. Tenace shot back: “You don’t know who Tommy John is? You better go find out.”

John, a 288-game winner who played for seven major-league teams, understands that he’s increasingly known as the name affixed to a pioneering patient and groundbreaking surgical procedure that allowed him to claw back from the career abyss.

“I find it funny that ball players don’t know Tommy John The Pitcher, they know Tommy John The Surgery,” he said.

John and his son, Dr. Tommy John III, are working to construct a new legacy by reducing the number of namesake surgeries on the increasingly stressed elbows of young pitchers.

Tommy III is a chiropractor who moved his practice from Chicago area to San Diego three weeks ago. He’s astounded and frustrated at the growth in ligament, tendon and cartilage damage among kids.

The younger John and his famous father are doing speaking engagements to help stymie those types of premature injuries.

“It’s only going to get worse,” he said.

Dr. James Andrews, the world’s most famed sports orthopedist, said his medical center’s research indicates there’s been a 7- to 10-fold increase in pitching overuse injuries to kids since 2010.

The message: If your child is crisscrossing the state on year-round traveling teams, uncorking curveballs before he shaves or banging out nightly bullpen sessions in the backyard, hit the brakes.