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Tommy John surgery pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe dies at 88

David Brown
Big League Stew
Frank Jobe
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A portrait of sports doctor Frank Jobe in 1990 leaning on a stack of medical texts, while holding an autographed baseball next to a jar of baseballs. (Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Former major league pitcher Tommy John, for whom the career-saving elbow surgery was named in 1974, wrote a short message explaining what Dr. Frank Jobe meant to him and he put it on his website Friday morning. Jobe died Thursday at 88 years old. He recently had been hospitalized with an undisclosed illness.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Jobe Family today.
Today baseball lost a great Doctor. Tommy John lost a GREAT friend. Frank Jobe passed away today. I remember him my 1st spring in Vero Beach. Dressed in tennis whites playing tennis with all the wives. BTW, he was a much, much better surgeon. When he told me what was going to happen to my left elbow, I trusted him as a friend first, doctor second. I knew he had my best interests at heart. If he had told me to bury my glove at 2nd base I would have done it. Because of our bond and trust I won 164 games after the groundbreaking surgery. The most amazing stat was that I never missed a start in the 13 years post surgery.
I got to spend 90 minutes with him at the Humana Golf Tournament in January. We laughed and told stories to numerous tour golfers. Frank Jobe was a great surgeon but an even better human being. I told him that if I ever made it to Cooperstown I wanted him with me. He will be with me in spirit now. RIP My friend!!

Here's a link to the short film ESPN produced on the relationship between John and Jobe.

Tommy John surgery is a ligament graft to replace a broken ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. It's most common among pitchers in baseball, but athletes in other sports have had it performed as well. It's practically impossible to pitch competitively without a functioning UCL, though exceptions exist. This is an abreviated list of players who have undergone Tommy John — some with Jobe, himself, as the surgeon.

John has been asked countless times why the surgery was named after him and not Jobe. The answer, probably, is because John was the famous pitcher. But reporter Ken Gurnick of MLB.com makes this important distinction:

It was Jobe who invented it, performed it, refined it and taught it to hundreds of training orthopedic surgeons that now consider it a routine procedure to prolong careers of ballplayers at every level of the game.

"[Sandy] Koufax teases me that if I was smart enough to think of it 10 years before, it might have been called the Koufax operation," Jobe once said. "He had essentially the same problem."

The sports world also lost Dr. Lewis Yocum, a protege of Jobe, this past May.

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David Brown edits Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

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