The southpaw, Tommy John,
tantalized batters with slow balls
he kept low while carving corners
of the plate with sliders and sinkers,
inducing grounders and double plays,
frustrating hitters, in particular
free swingers who tried to drive
his pitches out of the park.
While with the L.A. Dodgers in 1974,
he tore the medial collateral ligament
of his left elbow, which usually meant
the end a hurler’s playing days.
An orthopedic surgeon, Frank Jobe,
suggested he best give up the game
but this athlete wanted to compete again.
The doctor offered to perform
a procedure not done before –
he would transplant a tendon
from the pitcher’s right wrist
to his injured elbow and drill holes
in two bones to secure the graft,
hoping it would stabilize the joint
and function like a healthy ligament.
He informed Tommy John
the chances he’d be able to pitch
afterwards were “one in a hundred”
but his patient insisted they proceed
and underwent the experiment.
The lefty spent a year in recovery,
adhered to a careful rehab program
and rested his arm for months
before picking up a ball again.
In 1976, Tommy John returned,
toed the rubber on the mound
and showed players and fans
he could still get batters out.
This battler from Terra Haute
went on to win 164 more games,
a total of 288 big league wins
in a span of 26 years.
He retired from the sport in 1989.
On July 27, 2013, in a ceremony
at the Baseball Hall of Fame
in Cooperstown, New York,
as they stood side by side,
Tommy John introduced Frank Jobe,
the unassuming North Carolinian
and decorated WW II veteran,
honored for pioneering the surgery
which resurrected many careers.