The most-feared phrase in baseball is finally being added to the dictionary

Tommy John scar.
Tommy John underwent a surgery that saved numerous careers. (Getty Images)

Superstitious pitchers might want to avoid paging through the dictionary on the days they take the mound. Over 640 new words will be added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary on Monday, and one of them is sure to put pitchers on edge.

It may have taken 45 years and hundreds of procedures, but “Tommy John surgery” is officially being added to the dictionary, according to Keegan Matheson of Baseball Toronto.

Tommy John surgery was first performed by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974. The first patient to undergo the surgery was ... Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John (duh). The procedure — which involves repairing a torn ulnar collateral ligament —was named after John, and has been performed on hundreds, if not thousands, of professional and amateur baseball players in the last 45 years.

For a long time, Tommy John surgery was thought of as the worst possible injury a pitcher could suffer. The procedure usually leads to a lengthy recovery time, causing many promising baseball players to sit out at least a year while rehabbing from the injury. Medical advancements have made the surgery less daunting, but the phrase still strikes fear in the hearts of both pitchers and passionate baseball fans.

While John is considered a trailblazer for undergoing the surgery, the pitcher is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His on-field numbers fall short of the usual induction standard, but some have argued John’s case is strengthened by his actions. John’s impact on baseball can still be felt today. Tommy John surgery has saved numerous careers.

For now, being inducted into the Merriam-Webster dictionary will have to do. It might not result in a plaque, but it’s still a prestigious honor.


Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

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