Friday, March 07, 2014

Dr. Frank Jobe, RIP

"An army travels on its stomach" is a pithy way of saying that logistics are important. The visible part of any enterprise is supported by a much larger structure of people doing incredibly vital jobs, without which the shiny stuff never happens. Watch a movie's credits; the drivers and key grips and effects artists outnumber the "stars" by a couple of orders of magnitude, and without their efforts, the damn thing just doesn't happen. 

And the same goes for sports teams. There's an entire structure underpinning the nine guys standing on a baseball diamond at any given moment. There's coaches, and clubhouse staff and grounds crew and traveling secretaries and bus drivers and ticket takers and a million other folks.

Like the medical staff, who keep the guys you love to watch play on that field. And when the team's medical staff can't handle it, there's another team standing behind them.

Dr. Frank Jobe died on Thursday. The most famous thing he did - the creation of an arm-saving surgery for pitchers that has extended countless careers - got named after someone else, the pitcher whom it was first tried on. That's to be expected, after all. Tommy John was a star who won nearly 300 games. Dr. Frank Jobe was just a doctor.

Of course, if you look at All-Star rosters and playoff teams over the past thirty-plus years, you'll see lots of names that owe an awful lot to that doctor. Lots of pitchers who would have been done, elbows shredded, without his work. Lots of shoulders julienned beyond repair. Lots of ended careers and wasted promise and memories that were never made.

Not all of his patients came back 100%, of course. Nobody works that many miracles. But his work was so important, so influential to what baseball has become that you can now find people advocating that high school and college kids get TJ surgery as a precaution. It's become that routine, that accepted a part of the landscape, whereas when it was first introduced, it was an unthinkable miracle, a wild gamble that no one thought would succeed.
So look at your favorite team (and not just baseball; he treated lots of different folks) and count the number of guys on the roster who wouldn't be there without Dr. Jobe. Without the techniques he pioneered or the surgeries he performed. Without him, the guy who never played the game. Then think about where they'd be, and about how many of your favorite memories as a fan would be gone without him.

And then tip your cap, and show the man some respect. RIP, Dr. Jobe. And thank you.

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