Is There a Doctor in the Hall?

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I was entering WEEI’s Next Great Sports Blogger contest. Well, I found out yesterday that I didn’t make the cut. I admit, I’m not your typical sports blogger, focusing instead on more arcane (and to me, interesting) topics. Would have been nice to get the gig, but it wasn’t meant to be. Below is the submission that I sent along to WEEI. I’d love to hear what you think!

Imagine if we never saw Manny Delcarmen pitch.

Okay, maybe that didn’t catch you. I’ll try again.

Imagine if we never had to face Mariano Rivera.

Thirty years before Dr. Bill Morgan sutured Curt Schilling’s ankle, Dr. Frank Jobe performed a procedure that altered the future of baseball. Dr. Jobe took a ligament from Tommy John’s right (non-pitching) arm and inserted it in his left elbow.

In an interview with WEEI on September 10th, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus mentioned that no pitcher who had Tommy John surgery is in the Hall of Fame (though either John Smoltz or Rivera will be the first). What caught my attention is that he went on to say that he believed Jobe himself should be in the Hall for this contribution to the game.

Sound crazy? It isn’t without precedent. There actually is an “Executives/Pioneers” group in the Hall. Of the group’s 26 inductees, most are executives. But there are some pure pioneers. Ware, MA native Candy Cummings, for example, was elected for inventing the curveball. Early sportswriter Henry Chadwick—creator of the box score and the first baseball statistics—is enshrined.

Jobe’s case goes beyond elbow reconstruction. In a CNN Money article, Chris Isidore writes “He also was an innovator in repairing shoulders and knees. And his innovation that gets no attention but has had great impact on the game was the rehabilitation process he and his partners devised for athletes recovering from surgery.”

Upon bringing Jobe back for a 44th season in 2008, Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said “If ever a person had Hall of Fame credentials, it is this history-making medical pioneer.”

Not only are Delcarmen and Paul Byrd current Sox who have undergone the procedure, pitching coach John Farrell also did. Kyle Snyder, who appeared in two April games before being designated for assignment, had it as a minor leaguer.

Among 2007 Red Sox, Brendan Donnelly ended his short stint in Boston with an appointment for a Tommy John surgery. He returned this season with Cleveland.

Oh, and Eric Gagn√©, but let’s not talk about him.

Rivera and Smoltz aren’t the only big names. After his magical rookie year in 1998, Kerry Wood had it. Following his record of saves in 54 consecutive chances (while with the Sox), Tom Gordon needed the TJ. And let’s not forget it was against Boston (with Texas) that Jose Canseco took the hill to pitch the only game of his career. The appearance resulted in a 27.00 ERA and Tommy John surgery.

Many feel that Marvin Miller should be inducted for ushering in the era of free agency. Like Jobe, Miller never set a foot on a pitcher’s mound or in a batter’s box, but his influence on the game has been enormous.

If Jobe had devised the groundbreaking procedure just eight years earlier, imagine the career numbers we would have seen out of Sandy Koufax…


  1. On October 16th, 2008 at 2:56 pm Rich Thornett said:

    No tales of Vegas? No reverent references to lousy movies? No mention of your buddy, Sully?

    Guess you won’t be the next Boston Sports Guy. But I love hidden gems like Dr. Jobe. And since this excellent piece won’t be on WEEI, I guess that makes it … a hidden gem. Nice work, hope to see more.

  2. On October 18th, 2008 at 12:33 am shobhana said:

    nice write up….