WDAY: The News Leader

Published June 28, 2010, 10:44 AM

Catching up with a pitching legend known for surgery that bears his name

Fargo, ND (WDAY Sports) - Whenever we hear the name Tommy John, people normally grimace knowing a major arm injury has taken place and forgetting about a guy that won nearly 300 games. But the man doesn't seem to mind that his name is usually associated with something bad. WDAY 6's Matt Warner caught up with the pitching legend at the Maris Golf Tournament.

When it comes to those who have impacted the game of baseball, few people have done more than Tommy John. Despite winning 288 career games, what he's best remembered for is the medical procedure that bears his name.

After suffering an elbow injury in 1974, John went to Orthopedic Surgeon Frank Jobe to attempt a revolutionary procedure.

"He told me point blank, you don't have to have the surgery, but if you don't have it, you'll never pitch in the major leagues again. And I said, 'if I have it?' He said, 'I don't know, your chances are you probably won't play major league baseball again.' he said I just don't know. Well probably is a whole lot better than never."

So John underwent the procedure, placing a tendon from his forearm into his elbow, and the results were considered miraculous.

"I pitched in a ballgame one year and one day after surgery, and in the 13 years I pitched after surgery, I never missed a start.

Now the procedure referred to as "Tommy John Surgery" is commonplace in baseball. In fact just this spring Twins closer Joe Nathan underwent the surgery. And to this day, Tommy John hears from players who appreciate what he did in 1974.

"One guy at the RedHawks game, I went out Saturday night, and a guy came up and shook my hand and he said, 'I just want to thank you. You prolonged my career.'"

Little did Tommy John know 26 years ago how he and Dr. Frank Jobe would be changing the game of baseball. All he knows now is that he's glad the injury was to his elbow.

"Dr. Frank Jobe was a great orthopedic surgeon and I thank God that he was an orthopedic surgeon and not a proctologist because then Tommy John surgery would take on a different note!"

Normal recovery time from the John surgery is about 6-8 months.