Tommy John

Thomas Edward John Jr. (born May 22, 1943) is a retired American professional baseball pitcher who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for 26 seasons between 1963 and 1989. He played for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, California Angels, and Oakland Athletics. He was a four-time MLB All-Star.

John's 288 career victories rank as the seventh-highest total among left-handers in major league history. He had 188 career no decisions, an all-time MLB record among starting pitchers (dating back to at least 1908).[1] He is also known for the surgical procedure ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, nicknamed "Tommy John surgery", which he underwent in 1974 after damaging the ligament in his throwing arm.[2] John was the first pitcher to receive the operation, and despite a poor outlook initially, he returned to being an effective pitcher, as more than half of his career wins came after his surgery. It has since become a common procedure among baseball pitchers.

Tommy John
Tommy John 2008 bronx
John in 2008, attending a pre-All-Star game party in The Bronx
Born: May 22, 1943 (age 76)
Terre Haute, Indiana
Batted: Right Threw: Left
MLB debut
September 6, 1963, for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
May 25, 1989, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Win–loss record288–231
Earned run average3.34
Career highlights and awards

Playing career

John was an outstanding basketball player at Gerstmeyer High School in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he held the city single game scoring record. Choosing baseball when he realized he would not go on to play professional basketball, John signed with the Cleveland Indians and made his major league debut at twenty years-old in 1963. Following two partial seasons with the Indians, John showed occasional excellence during seven respectable years as a starting pitcher with the Chicago White Sox. However, it was a trade before the 1972 season to the Los Angeles Dodgers for mercurial slugger Dick Allen that began a skein of John's most famous years, first with the Dodgers and subsequently with the New York Yankees, where he posted a pair of 20-win seasons and was twice an All-Star. John was also named an All-Star in 1968 with the White Sox and 1978 with LA. He played in all three Yankees vs. Dodgers World Series of his era (1977, 1978 and 1981), having switched over to the Yankees by the time the Dodgers won the Series in 1981.

Tommy John - New York Yankees - 1981
John in 1981

John was a soft throwing sinkerball pitcher whose technique resulted in batters hitting numerous ground balls and induced double plays. In the middle of an excellent 1974 season, John had a 13–3 record as the Dodgers were en route to their first National League pennant in eight years, before he permanently damaged the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm, leading to a revolutionary surgical operation. This operation, now known as Tommy John surgery, replaced the ligament in the elbow of his pitching arm with a tendon from his right forearm. The surgery was performed by Dr. Frank Jobe on September 25, 1974, and it seemed unlikely he would ever be able to pitch again, as he spent the entire 1975 season in recovery. John worked with teammate and pitcher Mike Marshall (who had a Ph.D. in kinesiology and who was said to know how to help pitchers recover from injuries) who taught John a completely different way to pitch, where he would not turn his leg and go straight to the plate, thus eliminating the chance of his hurting his knee and arm, and John returned to the Dodgers in 1976. His 10–10 record that year was considered "miraculous", but John went on to pitch until 1989, winning 164 games after his surgery—forty more than before and one fewer in total than all-time great Sandy Koufax won in his entire career. After Phil Niekro's retirement, John spent 1988 and 1989 as the oldest player in the major leagues. In 1989, John matched Deacon McGuire's record for most seasons played in a Major League Baseball career with 26, later broken by Nolan Ryan.[3]

In 1986, Mark McGwire got two hits off him;[4] McGwire's father was John's dentist. John said of this, "When your dentist's kid starts hitting you, it's time to retire!"[5] Tommy John went on to pitch three more seasons.[6]

In 2009, in his 15th and final year of eligibility for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame, John received only 31.7% of the vote.[7] He needed at least 75% in order to be elected. He could still enter the Hall if he were selected by the Veterans Committee. On the edition of June 22, 2012 of The Dan Patrick Show, Patrick and longtime baseball commentator Bob Costas discussed the impact that Tommy John surgery has had on the game, stating that there could be a case for John being awarded the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.


John did commentary on select games during WPIX's final year of broadcasting Yankee baseball in 1998. In the edition of June 24, 1985 of ABC's Monday Night Baseball, John served as color commentator alongside Tim McCarver for a game between the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics. He also guest-hosted the Mike and Mike ESPN Radio program on June 26, 2008. It is unknown if he will continue any similar work for the network in the future. On December 17, 2006, John was named manager of the Bridgeport Bluefish in the Atlantic League, an independent minor league in the Northeast. Tommy John resigned as manager of the Bridgeport Bluefish on July 8, 2009, to pursue a "non-baseball position" with Sportable Scoreboards.[8] In two-and-a-half years of managing, he compiled a 159–176 won-lost record with Bridgeport.

In 2012, he was the spokesman for Tommy John's Go-Flex, a joint cream for older athletes and doing a national radio tour to promote this product as well as talk about life as a minor league coach, his years in the Major Leagues and to educate younger pitchers on the importance to take care of their arms.[9] In 2013 the initial Tommy John surgery, John's subsequent return to pitching success, and his relationship with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe, who developed the procedure, was the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts documentary.[10]

Personal life

Tommy married the former Sally Simmons on July 13, 1970. They are the parents of four children: Tamara, Tommy III, Travis, and Taylor. In 1981, when Travis was two years old, he fell 37 feet from a third-floor window in his family's New Jersey vacation house, bounced off the fender of a car and then lay in a coma for 17 days. He later made a full recovery.[11] On March 9, 2010, Taylor John, age 28, died as the result of a seizure and heart failure apparently due to an overdose of prescription drugs.[12] As a 10-year-old in 1992, Taylor's singing and acting talents had landed him a role in Les Misérables on Broadway. He took time off from the stage, however, to play baseball at Federal Little League in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[13]

In 1998, Tamara John married Chicago Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly.[14] Tommy's oldest son, Tommy John III, was an All-Southern Conference designated hitter for the Furman University Paladins in 1999; he later spent two seasons in the independent minor leagues as a pitcher for the Tyler Roughnecks and Schaumburg Flyers.[15] Tommy III was a 4-year letterman for the Paladins, leading the team in complete games as pitcher in 1997 (3 games), in home runs (9) in 1999 and is one of three Furman players in 113 years of varsity baseball to hit for the cycle, doing so on April 1, 2000 vs the Appalachian State Mountaineers.[16]

In 1979, John's collegiate alma mater Indiana State University, named him a Distinguished Alumnus.[17]

On January 4, 2009, Tommy John and his wife separated. Their marriage was dissolved on July 24, 2013.

On October 24, 2013, the Terre Haute, Indiana, Parks Department honored John with the dedication of a baseball diamond at the Spencer F. Ball Park baseball complex where John's last non-professional game was played in 1961, as a member of the Terre Haute Gerstmeyer High School Black Cats.[18][19]


  • The Tommy John Story, F.H. Revell Company, 1978. ISBN 0-8007-0923-3. (With Sally John and Joe Musser, foreword by Tommy Lasorda.)
  • The Sally and Tommy John Story: Our Life in Baseball, Macmillan, 1983. ISBN 0-02-559260-2. (With Sally John.)
  • TJ: My Twenty-Six Years in Baseball, Bantam, 1991. ISBN 0-553-07184-X. (With Dan Valenti.)

See also


  1. ^ "Pitching Game Finder: From 1908 to 2018, Recorded no decision, as Starter, sorted by greatest number of games in all seasons matching the selected criteria". Baseball Reference. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  2. ^ Purcell DB, Matava MJ, Wright RW (2007). "Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction: a systematic review". Clin. Orthop. Relat. Res. 455: 72–77. doi:10.1097/BLO.0b013e31802eb447. PMID 17279038.
  3. ^ Michael X. Ferraro and John Veneziano (2007). Numbelivable! Chicago: Triumph Books, p. 157. ISBN 978-1-57243-990-0
  4. ^ "Mark McGwire vs. Tommy John |". Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  5. ^ Simon, Scott (August 28, 2010). "Stephen Strasburg, Meet Tommy John". Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  6. ^ "Tommy John Statistics and History". Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  7. ^ Gurnick, Ken (January 12, 2009). "Tommy John loses bid for the Hall". Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  8. ^ "Tommy John Steps Down as Bluefish Manager". July 8, 2009. Archived from the original on January 4, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
  9. ^ "Official Site of the Bridgeport Bluefish". Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  10. ^ Grantland staff (July 23, 2013). "30 for 30 Shorts: Tommy and Frank". Grantland. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  11. ^ Sandomir, Richard (October 25, 1996). "John Family Recalls New York's Support". The New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2009.
  12. ^ Jensen, Trevor (March 10, 2010). "Taylor John, 1981–2010: Son of baseball great Tommy John". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 19, 2015.
  13. ^ [1] Archived April 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Weddings; Tamara John, James Mannelly". The New York Times. June 21, 1998.
  15. ^ "Tommy John Register Statistics & History". August 31, 1977. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  16. ^ "Furman University – 2013 Furman Baseball Yearbook". Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  17. ^ [2] Archived February 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Mark Bennett (October 24, 2013). "Tommy John's Field of Dreams". Terre Haute Tribune Star: Columns. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  19. ^ Foulkes, Arthur. "Diamond to be named for Tommy John". Retrieved January 18, 2016.

External links

Preceded by
Davey Johnson
National League Player of the Month
April 1974
Succeeded by
Ralph Garr
1965 Chicago White Sox season

The 1965 Chicago White Sox season was the team's 65th season in the major leagues, and its 66th season overall. They finished with a record 95–67, good enough for second place in the American League, 7 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins.

1982 California Angels season

The California Angels 1982 season involved the Angels finishing 1st in the American League west with a record of 93 wins and 69 losses.

1989 New York Yankees season

The New York Yankees' 1989 season was the 87th season for the Yankees. The team finished with a record of 74-87, finishing in fifth place, 14.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays. New York was managed by Dallas Green and Bucky Dent. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium.

Brandon Workman

Brandon Carlin Workman (born August 13, 1988) is an American professional baseball pitcher with the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball (MLB). He made his MLB debut in 2013. He both throws and bats right-handed, and is listed at 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) and 235 pounds (107 kg).

Brent Strom

Brent Terry Strom (born October 14, 1948) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played from 1972 to 1973 and 1975 to 1977 for the New York Mets, Cleveland Indians and San Diego Padres. He is the pitching coach for the Houston Astros. According to an interview with Tommy John, Strom was the second pitcher to receive Tommy John surgery.

Frank Jobe

Frank James Jobe (July 16, 1925 – March 6, 2014) was an American orthopedic surgeon and co-founder of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. Jobe pioneered both elbow ligament replacement and major reconstructive shoulder surgery for baseball players.

In 1974, Jobe performed the first "Tommy John surgery" on then-Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. The procedure has become so prevalent an estimated one-third of all major league pitchers have undergone it. Jobe also performed the first major reconstructive shoulder surgery on a big league player in 1990, which allowed Dodger star Orel Hershiser to continue his career. Jobe served as a special medical adviser to the Dodgers until his death.

Garrett Richards

Garrett Thomas Richards (born May 27, 1988) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Los Angeles Angels.

Greg Holland

Gregory Scott Holland (born November 20, 1985) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball (MLB). He has previously played for the Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals. Holland is a three-time All-Star.

After pitching for Western Carolina University, Holland made his MLB debut with the Royals in 2010. He became their closer and made the All-Star Game in 2013 and 2014, and also won the Mariano Rivera Award in 2014. Holland was a member of the 2015 Kansas City Royals team that won the World Series. He missed the 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and signed with the Colorado Rockies for the 2017 season. He led the National League in saves with the Rockies, and signed with the Cardinals for the 2018 season.

Jason Motte

Jason Louis Motte (born June 22, 1982) is an American former professional baseball relief pitcher. He has played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies and Atlanta Braves. The Cardinals drafted him as a catcher in 2003 and he converted to pitching in 2006. Motte played a key role in the 2011 World Series championship run, saving five postseason games. In 2012, he led the National League (NL) in saves with 42. Motte had Tommy John surgery to repair an ulnar collateral ligament injury that kept him from playing all of 2013. After returning to the Cardinals midway through the 2014 season, Motte signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Cubs for 2015.

Jonny Venters

Jonathan William Venters (born March 20, 1985) is an American professional baseball relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played in MLB for the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays.

Josh Johnson (baseball)

Joshua Michael Johnson (born January 31, 1984), nicknamed "JJ", is a Canadian-American former professional baseball pitcher. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Florida/Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays from 2005 through 2013.

José Fernández (pitcher)

José Delfín Fernández Gómez (July 31, 1992 – September 25, 2016) was a Cuban-born American professional baseball pitcher. He stood 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighed 243 pounds (110 kg) during his playing career. He was affectionately known as "Niño" by his teammates and fans due to the youthful exuberance with which he played the game. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Miami Marlins from 2013 until his death in 2016.

Fernández was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. He made three unsuccessful attempts at defecting to the United States before he finally succeeded in 2008. He enrolled at Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa, Florida, and was selected by the Marlins in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft. Fernández made his MLB debut with the Marlins on April 7, 2013. He was named to the 2013 National League All-Star Team, and won the National League (NL) Rookie of the Month Award in July and August. After the season, he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and finished third in Cy Young Award balloting. He underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2014 season and was named to his second All-Star Game in 2016.

Fernández was the pilot when he and two other men were killed in a pre-dawn boating crash into a jetty off the coast of Miami Beach, Florida, on September 25, 2016.

List of Major League Baseball career games started leaders

In baseball statistics, a pitcher is credited with a game started (denoted by GS) if he is the first pitcher to pitch for his team in a game.

Cy Young holds the Major League Baseball games started record with 815; Nolan Ryan is second with 773. Young is the only pitcher in MLB history to start more than 800 career games. Nolan Ryan (773), Don Sutton (756), Greg Maddux (740), Phil Niekro (716), Steve Carlton (709), Roger Clemens (707), and Tommy John (700) are the only other pitches to have started 700 or more games their career.

Little League elbow

Little League elbow is a condition that is caused by repetitive throwing motions, especially in children who play sports that involve an overhand throw. "Little Leaguer's elbow" was coined by Brogdon and Crow in an eponymous 1960 article in the American Journal of Radiology.The name of the condition is derived from the game of baseball. Compared to athletes who play other sports, baseball players are at higher risk of overuse injuries and injuries caused by early sports specialization by children and teenagers.Little League elbow is most often seen in young pitchers under the age of sixteen. The pitching motion causes a valgus stress to be placed on the elbow joint which can cause damage to the structures of the elbow, resulting in an avulsion of the medial epiphyseal plate (growth plate).

The first diagnosis of the injury in 1960 set off a firestorm of controversy regarding how much youth baseball players can and should be asked to pitch. The ailment even appeared in the comic strip Peanuts in 1963 when Charlie Brown received a diagnosis. In 2007, in order to protect against overuse injuries, Little League Baseball began limiting the number of pitches a player could throw per day.Adult pitchers do not experience the same injury because they do not have an open growth plate in the elbow. Instead, in adult athletes a more common injury is to the ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow, an injury that often requires Tommy John surgery in order for the athlete to resume high-level competitive throwing.

Matt Harvey

Matthew Edward Harvey (born March 27, 1989) is an American professional baseball pitcher. He has played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, and Los Angeles Angels.

Harvey played at Fitch Senior High School in Groton, Connecticut, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Mets selected Harvey in the 2010 MLB draft as the seventh overall pick. In his major league debut on July 26, 2012, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Harvey set a new club record with 11 strikeouts while earning his first career victory.Harvey had a breakout season in 2013, being selected to play in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Harvey then missed the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery but returned to top form in 2015, leading the Mets to the pennant. His career, once promising during his first two seasons, has since been derailed by several injuries and ineffectiveness, including Tommy John surgery, thoracic outlet syndrome and a stress fracture in the scapula. After a disappointing start to the 2018 season, Harvey was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

Michael Pineda

Michael Francisco Pineda Paulino (born January 18, 1989) is a Dominican professional baseball starting pitcher for the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees.

Pineda signed as an international free agent with the Mariners in 2005, and made his MLB debut for the Mariners in 2011. In his rookie season he was named an All-Star and finished fifth in balloting for American League Rookie of the Year. After his rookie season, he was traded to the Yankees. He missed the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to a series of shoulder injuries. Pineda's 2017 season ended due to Tommy John surgery, which kept him out for the entire 2018 season.

Steve Stanicek

Stephen Blair Stanicek (born June 19, 1961) is a former Major League Baseball player. He played parts of two seasons in the majors, 1987 for the Milwaukee Brewers and 1989 for the Philadelphia Phillies. He played 13 games, twelve as a pinch hitter and one as a designated hitter.

Steve is the brother of fellow former major leaguer Pete Stanicek. The brothers made their Major League debuts 15 days apart in 1987.

In a Sept. 16 game at Yankee Stadium, with the visiting Brewers trailing in the seventh inning, Steve Stanicek came to bat for the first time, pinch-hitting. He reached safely against Yankee pitcher Tommy John on an error, and Milwaukee rallied for three runs in the inning and a 5-4 victory.

Two nights later, Stanicek got his first big-league hit. He was a pinch-hitter again, this time in the ninth inning of a game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit that the Brewers were losing 7-1. After a two-run Dale Sveum home run, Stanicek was sent up against Willie Hernandez with a teammate on base and delivered a single. Next batter Paul Molitor hit a three-run homer to make it 7-6 and knock Hernandez out of the game, but that's how the game ended.

Stanicek is an alumnus of Rich East High School in Park Forest, Illinois and the University of Nebraska. He has been a successful high school coach in the Chicago area and is currently head coach at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois.

Tyler Skaggs

Tyler Wayne Skaggs (July 13, 1991 – July 1, 2019) was an American professional baseball starting pitcher who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels.

The Angels selected Skaggs in the first round of the 2009 MLB draft. After the Angels traded him to the Diamondbacks during the 2010 season, Skaggs made his MLB debut in 2012. The Diamondbacks traded him back to the Angels during the 2013–2014 off-season, and he pitched for the team until his death in 2019. Skaggs posted a career earned run average (ERA) of 4.41 and recorded 476 strikeouts and a win–loss record of 28 wins and 38 losses.

On July 1, 2019, Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in Southlake, Texas, where the Angels were visiting to play the Texas Rangers. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction

Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, also known as Tommy John surgery (TJS), is a surgical graft procedure where the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with either a tendon from elsewhere in the patient's body, or with one from a dead donor. The procedure is common among collegiate and professional athletes in several sports, particularly in baseball.

The procedure was invented in 1974 by orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe, a Los Angeles Dodgers team physician who served as a special advisor to the team until his death in 2014. It is named after the first baseball player to undergo the surgery, major league pitcher Tommy John, whose record of 288 career victories ranks seventh among left-handed pitchers. The initial operation, John's successful post-surgery career, and the relationship between the two men is the subject of a 2013 ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.

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