Jobe remembered as great doc, better person
Memorial service at Dodger Stadium celebrates life of medical pioneer
LOS ANGELES -- The life of pioneering orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe was celebrated at a private memorial held Monday at Dodger Stadium.
Jobe, inventor of the career-saving Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and career-extending "Jobe Exercises," died March 6. He was 88 and in his 50th season with the Dodgers.
Medical luminaries turned out, as well as Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, former Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser, and the namesake patient of his breakthrough 1974 elbow operation that changed the sport.
"I'm Tommy John," he said. "I'm the guinea pig."
In 1974, Jobe transplanted a tendon to replace the torn ulnar collateral ligament of the Dodgers lefty, whose comeback lasted 14 years and set such a successful precedent for future patients that the surgery bears his name. The procedure had never been done until Jobe conceived and invented it.
One of five to deliver eulogies, John detailed his injury and the counsel he received from Jobe that led to an operation no professional baseball player had ever tried after traditional rehabilitation failed to get John back on the mound.
"He told me if I didn't have the operation, there was no chance I would pitch again, but if I had the operation, there were two or three chances out of 100 that I could come back," John said. "That was better than zero chances. I told him, 'Let's do it. If you do your job, I'll more than do my job.' The rest is history."
John said that while Jobe was a brilliant surgeon, "I considered him my friend. Losing him hurts a lot."
Jobe not only invented and performed the procedure, he refined it and taught it to hundreds of training orthopedic surgeons that now consider it a common surgery to prolong careers of ballplayers at every level of the game.
The memorial was emceed by legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.
"We are so much richer for having known him," said Scully. "He had a happy life that went the full nine innings. Frank not only was successful, but he was a man of substance. He spent a lifetime giving back."
Jobe colleagues Dr. James Tibone, Dr. Bernard Morrey and Dr. Neal ElAttrache spoke to several hundred invited attendees, as did Jobe's son, Meredith Jobe.
"The public knew Frank Jobe as Tommy John's surgeon," said Meredith Jobe. "It was the convergence of a great doctor and a perfect patient."
"He was a teacher, a partner and a friend," said Tibone. "He was a magician in the operating room. He was smooth, with no wasted motion. He never rushed, but his surgeries took half as long as other surgeons."
Morrey told how Jobe "taught the world" the ligament transplant operation, a fact demonstrated by a tribute video from retired Japanese pitcher Masumi Kuwata, whose career was saved by Jobe with a 1995 Tommy John operation. Kuwata annually returned to Los Angeles to take Jobe to dinner in appreciation.
"Frank defined pitcher mechanics and tried to help them avoid injury, so he wouldn't have to do the operation," Morrey said. "That's why he's a hero to the profession."
Indeed, Jobe often said he was prouder of the preventative "Jobe Exercises" that have been embraced by pitchers everywhere than the operation that actually made him famous.
ElAttrache, who took over as the Dodgers' team surgeon after Jobe retired from active practice in 2008, cited a quote by UCLA coaching legend John Wooden to describe Jobe.
"Good players may have great skills; but great players make those around them better."
An emotional ElAttrache said as a "student, fellow and partner," he was "touched and affected [by Jobe] in very profound ways, as were the 300 fellows that were mentored by Jobe at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic.
"It tells you something about a man that his greatest pride comes from the people he produced -- his family and his fellows," ElAttrache said. "The research, training and education program he established is a prototype for future programs."
ElAttrache said Jobe was positive and confident without being cocky or arrogant. He praised Jobe for embracing progress.
Jobe's first dealings with the Dodgers came in 1964, when he teamed with then-club physician Dr. Robert Kerlan to found what continues as the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. Jobe took over as Dodgers' physician in 1968, and held the job of medical director until 2008, when he retired from active practice and became special advisor to the chairman of the Dodgers.
Jobe is survived by his wife, Beverly, four sons -- Christopher, Meredith, Cameron and Blair -- and their spouses, and eight grandchildren.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.