Tommy John

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Tommy John
Tommy John 2008 bronx.jpg
John in 2008, attending a pre-All-Star game party in The Bronx.
Born: (1943-05-22) May 22, 1943 (age 75)
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 record 288–231
Earned run average 3.34
Strikeouts 2,245
Career highlights and awards

Thomas Edward John Jr. (born May 22, 1943) is an American professional baseball pitcher who played in Major League Baseball for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, California Angels, and Oakland Athletics from 1963 to 1989. 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" when he became the first pitcher to undergo the operation, which was performed on a damaged ligament in his pitching arm.[2] Over half of John's career wins came after his surgery.

Playing career[edit]

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.

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 would work with teammate and major league 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 in which 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 seasons played, 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 June 22, 2012 edition 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 June 24, 1985 edition 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[edit]

Tommy married the former Sally Simmons on July 13, 1970. They are 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 made news by taking 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 a 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 John and his wife separated. Their marriage was dissolved 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, when he was with 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[edit]


  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: 72–7. doi:10.1097/BLO.0b013e31802eb447. PMID 17279038. 
  3. ^ Numbelivable!, p.157, Michael X. Ferraro and John Veneziano, Triumph Books, Chicago, Illinois, 2007, ISBN 978-1-57243-990-0
  4. ^ "Mark McGwire vs. Tommy John |". Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  5. ^ Simon, Scott (28 August 2010). "Stephen Strasburg, Meet Tommy John". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "Tommy John Statistics and History |". Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  7. ^ Gurnick, Ken (12 January 2009). "Tommy John loses bid for the Hall". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  8. ^ "Tommy John Steps Down as Bluefish Manager". July 8, 2009. Archived from the original on January 4, 2010. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  9. ^ "Official Site of the Bridgeport Bluefish: Home". Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  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 2009-05-10. 
  12. ^ Jensen, Trevor (March 10, 2010). "Taylor John, 1981-2010: Son of baseball great Tommy John". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016. 
  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". 1977-08-31. Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  16. ^ "Furman University – 2013 Furman Baseball Yearbook". Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  17. ^ [2] Archived February 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Thursday, October 24, 2013 5:00 am (2013-10-24). "MARK BENNETT: Tommy John's Field of Dreams – Terre Haute Tribune Star: Columns". Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  19. ^ Arthur FoulkesThe Tribune-Star. "Diamond to be named for Tommy John – Terre Haute Tribune Star: Local News". Retrieved 2016-01-18. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Davey Johnson
National League Player of the Month
April, 1974
Succeeded by
Ralph Garr