#18 Tommy John

So as we enter Easter weekend, SSOMG thought it would be appropriate to tell the story of one, or actually two, of the greatest comeback stories in baseball, the story of Tommy John. 

Tommy John pitched for 6 major league teams during his career and of course most notably for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He came up with the Cleveland Indians in 1969, and although he was a very good pitcher, by the mid-1970’s his name was certainly not a household word….yet. 

In 1974, Tommy was having his finest year, recording a 13-3 record for the Dodgers at the all star break.  Unfortunately, his pitching arm was starting to show the effects of too many fastballs and too many curveballs.  In late July, John went on the disabled list, and it appeared that his career could be over.  After considering his alternatives Tommy John signed the papers with Dr. Frank Jobe to undergo a revolutionary surgery, which entailed replacing the ligament in the bad elbow of his pitching arm with a tendon from his right forearm.  Dr. Jobe gave the odds for success to be about 100-1.  Nevertheless, after a year and a half of rehab, Tommy John rose again.  In 1976, John was 10-10, and the following year he won 20 games, a miracle for sure. 

Tommy John went on to pitch in 288 games total over 26 years in the major leagues, before retiring in 1989.  He won 164 major league games after his famous “Tommy John Surgery”.  Tommy John had risen indeed.

The procedure obviously had saved his career.  To date, over 1,800 Tommy John surgeries have been performed on baseball players at all levels, and have led to many comebacks and many saved careers.  The surgery has become a God-send for so many players suffering from elbow/ulnar stress & injury.

Good story, good comeback…but wait.  There is more.  Tommy John would soon experience another great comeback in his life, and this one was down-right amazing.  Tommy and his wife had 4 children during his playing career. The 3rd born was Travis.  In 1981, at the age of 2, Travis fell 36 feet out of a

3rd story window of his family’s New Jersey vacation home.  He bounced off the fender of a car, and was rushed to the hospital, where he remained in a coma for 17 days.  But upon opening his eyes, his full recovery never remained in doubt.  Within days he was up walking and tossing a ball to his doctor. 

Travis had only suffered a mild skull fracture and no broken bones.  Soon he was back to being a normal kid, though keeping his distance from open windows.

Tommy John has been blessed with two epic comebacks in his life….if you ask him, he will tell you there have actually been three…

Have a great Easter.


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