Thursday, March 6, 2014


Tomorrow we begin an ongoing series about the Baseball Reliquary's remarkable symbiosis with Japanese-American artist Ben Sakoguchi (Tuesday, March 4th marked the opening of their "Purpose Pitch" exhibition, which features 54 of Sakoguchi's colorfully provocative works), but today we pause to  say farewell to a man who had as much impact on baseball as Babe Ruth.

Tommy John and Dr. Frank Jobe, at the edges of baseball innovation.
Who is that man? It's Dr. Frank Jobe, who invented ulnar collateral ligament surgery in 1974 (the fortieth anniversary of this landmark in baseball history will occur on September 25th), which, as even casual fans know, is referred to as "Tommy John surgery" in honor of the first pitcher to undergo the procedure.

As has been widely reported, Dr. Jobe gave John just a 1% chance of playing baseball again  after the surgery; John's startling success paved the way for the procedure to become ubiquitous over the next four decades.

Placed on the Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals Ballot in 2003, Dr. Jobe would be inducted in 2012--giving a gracious, doctorly acceptance speech to a warm, appreciative audience in Pasadena after having been introduced by John, the man who'd made him a household word.

Dr. Jobe, who passed away earlier today at age 88, wanted to prevent the injuries that his surgical procedure proved so adept at fixing. He felt that most pitchers who reached the major leagues were pitching with at least an incipient injury, usually due to poor mechanics and overuse while pitching as teenagers. While these ideas have yet to fully take hold in the secondary schools and American Legion leagues across America, Jobe's efforts and insights have inspired ongoing programs and research, providing hope that, over time, a series of preventive measures can take hold to reduce the rate of injury.

While Ben Sakoguchi has been reluctant to take commissions, we wonder if he might consider making an exception for Dr. Jobe, who remains a man for all seasons.