LOS ANGELES - Dr. Frank Jobe, the sports medicine pioneer who was the first to perform an elbow procedure that became known as Tommy John Surgery, died Thursday. He was 88.
Jobe died in Santa Monica after being hospitalized recently with an undisclosed illness, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jobe performed groundbreaking elbow surgery in 1974 on John, a Dodgers pitcher who had a ruptured medial collateral ligament in his left elbow. The injury previously had no solution until Jobe removed a tendon from John's forearm and repaired his elbow. John went on to pitch 14 years after the operation on Sept. 25, 1974, compiling 164 more victories without ever missing a start because of an elbow problem.
"Today I lost a GREAT friend," John tweeted.
Last year, the initial surgery and the relationship between John and Jobe was the subject of an ESPN documentary.
The surgery has since become common practice for pitchers and players at every level of baseball. Typically, full rehabilitation takes about a year for pitchers and about six months for position players.
Jobe had served the Dodgers' organization for 50 years, most recently as special adviser to the chairman. The courtly Southerner attended the team's games as recently as last season, with someone on either arm escorting him.
Former Dodgers pitching great Orel Hershier tweeted, "He changed my life!! Gave me back my career!! I will miss him and I am eternally grateful!!!"
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig saluted Jobe for revolutionizing sports medicine.
"His wisdom elevated not only the Dodgers, the franchise he served proudly for a half-century, but all of our clubs," Selig said in a statement. "Dr. Jobe's expertise, as well as his enthusiasm to mentor his peers, made the national pastime stronger."
Since 1974, Jobe had performed hundreds of Tommy John surgeries on pitchers. The orthopedic surgeon co-founded the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic along with the late Dr. Robert Kerlan in 1965. They supervised the medical treatment for the Dodgers and Angels, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Rams, the Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks, as well as other pro and amateur athletes around the country.
Jobe had also been the orthopedic consultant for the PGA and Champions tours for more than 25 years.
Last July, the Baseball Hall of Fame honored Jobe during its induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., with John in attendance.
Born in Greensboro, N.C., in 1925, Jobe joined Army at 18 and served as a medical staff sergeant in the Army's 101st Airborne Division during World War II.
After the war, Jobe completed his undergraduate degree at La Sierra University and went on to attend medical school at Loma Linda University. After serving a residency, Jobe teamed with Kerlan to specialize in the new field of sports medicine.
Jobe is survived by wife Beverly, sons Christopher, Meredith, Cameron and Blair, and eight grandchildren.