A big @BronxPinstripes “Happy Birthday” goes out to the former Yankees southpaw and the man behind the famous surgery name, Tommy John! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. John a couple of times over the past few years and let me tell you, what a sweetheart he is. Of course, I felt a little guilty bombarding him with a type of hug that you should only give your own grandfather and asking for countless autographs and pictures but he willingly complied and sat to chat casually with us.
John’s storied career lasted 26 years in the majors where he collected a whopping 288 career victories (7th all-time amongst lefties). He pitched for the Yanks for a total of 6 years amongst 2 different stints. It was in his ’74 season when he was pitching for the Dodgers when he harshly damaged the ligament in his throwing arm. And we all know the story goes, about how Dr. Frank Jobe completed a revolutionary surgery by replacing the ligament in the elbow of his pitching arm with a tendon from his right forearm, thus coining the medical procedure now known as “Tommy John surgery.”
Think about it. On a daily basis, we hear his name used (in talking about the surgery) more than any other player’s from his era. He has turned into not only a medical protocol but a household name.
Unfortunately, the prominence of wear and tear on the muscles of the arms of pitchers has grown over the years and the # surgeries has also increased. AJ Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, Yu Darvish, Matt Harvey, John Lackey, Jamie Moyer, Joe Nathan, Ivan Nova, John Smoltz, Stephen Strasburg, Brian Wilson (twice), and Kerry Wood are a few of many who have undergone TJS.
Now retired, he takes the time out of the goodness of his heart to treck to upstate NY a couple of times a year, to make appearances and guest star coach for the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs (PGCBL), where he serves as Chairman of the Board. He adds his baseball greatness, fame, and familial devotion to the park each season. The 4x All-Star, who arguably has the numbers and the impact, has never made the vote to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
“He is truly a great person, who is just as great off the field as he was on it,” said ‘Dawgs owner, Travis Heiser, who is close friends with John. “The fact that he is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame is an embarrasment to the game of baseball…as he has 288 wins and the knock is that the surgery prolonged his career…well if that is the case then Harvey, Strasburg and all the others who have had the surgery better have the same things [go against them in the HOF voting] about them!”
This baseball great has experienced some tragic times throughout his personal life, that aren’t very well known:
“He and his ex-wife have four children—Tamara, Tommy III, Travis, and Taylor. In 1981, when Travis was two years old, he fell 37 feet from a third-floor window in his family’s New Jersey vacation house, bounced off the fender of a car and then lay in a coma for 17 days. He later made a full recovery. On March 9, 2010, Taylor John, age 28, died as the result of a seizure and heart failure because of an overdose of prescription drugs.” (taken directly from wikipedia.com)
I would describe John as sweet, pensive, and a down-to-earth, truly nice man. His eyes still have that handsome blue eyed sparkle to them (like he’s had since his glory days), which is a direct symbol of his personality. So to a guy who’s been through a lot and was always an idol of mine growing up…Cheers to 72! (and many, many more!)