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The caring of Dr. Frank Jobe saved Scott Akasaki

PHOENIX --- Dr. Frank Jobe, who died Thursday at 88, is best remembered as the father of the ligament replacement procedure -- commonly known as Tommy John surgery -- which has prolonged and improved the careers of thousands of pitchers.

"He’s touched more wins, more saves, more at-bats maybe than anybody in baseball history," said former Cy Young award winner Orel Hershier, who pitched 10 seasons after undergoing shoulder surgery performed by Jobe. "He’s extended the joy of every baseball fan because he allowed great players and just any big leaguer to get back on the field and contribute to everybody’s excitement and joy and careers."

But Jobe's medical magic extended well beyond the All-Stars and Hall of Famers he is most closely identified with.

Several years ago Scott Akasaki, the Dodgers director of team travel, was bothered by a mysterious pain that spread from his fingers to his neck. He coped with the pain by gulping Advil until Jobe arranged for him to have an MRI.

"On July 4, a holiday," Akasaki remembered Friday.

Turns out Akasaki's problems were more serious than even Jobe had thought. The exam found he had a tumor and two cysts inside his spinal cord. Jobe arranged for him to see a specialist at UCLA later that day and two weeks later Akasaki underwent a lengthy surgery. He was back at work before the end of the season.

But the story doesn't stop there.

Akasaki isn't sure the surgery saved his life or even prevented paralysis -- though he thinks it might have done both. What he's certain of, though, is that Jobe deserves credit for Akasaki eventually meeting his wife, Tiffany, with whom he has had two children.

And he told the doctor so in an email shortly after Jobe's own health problems became public.

"I sent him a picture of my family," an emotional Akasaki said as he fought to keep his composure. "I wanted him to understand that because of him, he allowed me to meet my wife and have kids.

"So I just told him how I felt. I appreciated what he did for me. I really feel like he saved my life in so many other ways."

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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