Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered the elbow procedure that became known as Tommy John surgery and saved the careers of countless pitchers, was remembered Monday as a gifted and caring surgeon with a sense of humor.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully presided over an hour-long service at Dodger Stadium that ended with cups of vanilla ice cream being handed out in near 90-degree temperatures. Jobe loved the cool treat. He died last month at 88.
“Frank had a happy life that went a full nine innings,” Scully said from a platform on the field with Jobe’s photo displayed on the giant video board.
Tommy John himself spoke about the man whose name became forever linked with his after the 1974 surgery that saved John’s career. The Dodgers pitcher had a ruptured medial collateral ligament in his left elbow, an injury that had no remedy until Jobe removed a tendon from John’s forearm and repaired his elbow.
“I’m Tommy John and I’m the guinea pig,” he told several hundred people sitting in the last seven shaded rows of the field-level seats.
John went on to pitch 14 years after the operation, compiling 164 more victories without ever missing a start because of an elbow problem.
John said he last saw Jobe in January at a PGA Tour event in La Quinta, Calif. Jobe had been the tour’s longtime orthopedic consultant.
“We just told stories and laughed,” he said. “He was the best friend a person could have, but he was a helluva surgeon, too. When you lose a friend, it hurts and it hurts a lot.”
The surgery has since become common practice for injured pitchers and players at every level of baseball, with some pitchers signing multiyear contracts just months after they have the surgery in expectation of a high-level return.
The elder Jobe had served the Dodgers’ organization for 50 years, most recently as special adviser to the chairman. The courtly Southerner attended the team’s games always dressed in a suit and tie as recently as last season, with someone on either arm escorting him.
Among those paying respects were former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, whose right shoulder was reconstructed by Jobe; Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten; Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt; Anne Meyers Drysdale, widow of Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale; former Dodgers outfielder Rick Monday; and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.