For much of his life Tommy John suffered from a slight stutter that effected his speech. Similarly, his big league career also suffered a stammering halt when he suffered an arm injury when he was 31 years old in 1974. He missed an entire season and underwent a radical new surgery in which tendons from his non-throwing shoulder were transferred to his left shoulder. Amazingly, he came back in 1976 and won 10 games, pitching very well. But that was only the beginning – he won 164 games after the procedure, including three 20-win seasons. The first “bionic pitcher”, John pitched until he was 46 years old, always finding a home with the New York Yankees, where he was one of the personal favorites of owner George Steinbrenner. He finished his career with 288 victories and spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, never garnering more than 32% support.
The surgery that was used to repair John’s left arm (performed by Dr. Frank Jobe) has become known as “Tommy John” surgery.
- In 1968 in early August, Tommy John of the White Sox and Dick McAuliffe of the Tigers got into a scuffle after one of John’s pitches skimmed McAuliffe. As a result, John suffered a broken left collarbone. He missed the rest of that season after having posted a 10-5 record with a fantastic 1.98 ERA in 25 starts.