School of Medicine class of 1956 alumnus Frank W. Jobe, MD, was honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame during its Induction Ceremony July 28 in Cooperstown, New York—and he’s never played a single inning of professional baseball.
Dr. Jobe’s impact on the field, however, has been felt through the 124 Major League pitchers whose careers have been saved thanks to a surgery he pioneered in 1974.
“I knew some friends and colleagues of mine were campaigning to get me recognized by the Hall of Fame but never thought it would really happen,” Dr. Jobe says. “I appreciate every moment of it.”
Also celebrating is his alma mater. “Loma Linda University School of Medicine is extremely proud of Dr. Jobe's accomplishments,” says Roger Hadley, MD, dean of the school. “We strive to matriculate physicians into the professional world so that they may have a successful and fulfilling life—not just in the medical field, but in all that they do. Dr. Jobe has done that and more.”
Before 1974, a torn ulnar collateral ligament—a common elbow injury for many baseball pitchers—meant the end of a pitcher’s career. As an orthopaedic surgeon and team doctor for the LA Dodgers, Dr. Jobe changed all that by pioneering a procedure known as the “Tommy John” surgery after the first pitcher it saved.
“I was scared to death,” recalls Mr. John, former pitcher for the Dodgers, of when he learned his career was likely finished due to his injury. “Back then if you were operated on, you were toast. I thought I was going to end up selling used cars on my friend’s lot back home. Thankfully I was with the Dodgers. Thankfully I had Dr. Frank Jobe as my surgeon. He completed the mission.”
The ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction is essentially a ligament transplant. “We take a tendon from one part of the patient’s body and reconstruct the ligament in the pitching arm to make it work like it used to,” Dr. Jobe explains.
Trying it was risky, but 31-year-old Mr. John was adamant that he wasn’t going to quit the sport he loved. Dr. Jobe gave him a 1 in 100 chance of ever pitching again.
On September 26, 1975, one year and one day after the surgery, Mr. John pitched his first game for three innings and was back in rotation by 1976.
“Had I never been with the Dodgers, I would have never met Dr. Jobe,” Mr. John says. “He is the best orthopaedic surgeon in the world and he’s my friend.”
Dr. Jobe served as team physician for the Dodgers for 40 years. He still acts as a vital resource to the team, and he has also been the orthopaedic consultant for the PGA and Senior PGA Tours for 26 years.
Dr. Jobe’s impact on baseball has been felt in Japan, as well, where he played a key role in saving the careers of professional players. His personal care for the players and the generous teaching and training he has provided to Japanese physicians has made him a national treasure to both baseball and sports medicine followers.
Dr. Jobe also co-founded the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in California, which continues to be a vital asset in the world of sports medicine, serving athletes of every caliber.
While the campaign for Dr. Frank Jobe was successful in garnering the recognition he deserved for his contribution to sports medicine during this year’s Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, New York, the desired goal is to actually get Dr. Jobe inducted into the Hall of Fame. The campaign will carry on until that goal is achieved. For more information visit www.drjobehof.org.