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Orel Hershiser, Stan Conte remember Frank Jobe


GLENDALE -- One day after the passing of Dr. Frank Jobe, the longtime physician was remembered fondly by several in the Dodgers organization. The team honored Jobe with a moment of silence before their game at Camelback Ranch against the Rangers on Friday, but before the game the talk centered on Jobe.

The man will be most remembered for pioneering what is now known as Tommy John surgery, reconstructing a torn elbow ligament using a tendon from elsewhere in the body.

"He most definitely changed the game," said Scott Elbert, who had Tommy John surgery in 2013. "He gave everyone a chance to continue playing this game."

Carl Crawford had the procedure in 2012, and before his procedure didn't think it was something position players did, only pitchers. But with the surgery so prevalent now, with hundreds of procedures done in the 40 years since Jobe operated on John, Crawford noted, "Guys come back throwing harder, stronger, playing longer."

Chad Billingsley had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and, like Elbert and Crawford, didn't have the surgery performed by Jobe. But Billingsley new Jobe as the doctor who performed his first physical when he signed with the Dodgers in 2003, and as someone affiliated with the organization for five decades.

"He was a good man. He's done a lot for the sport," Billingsley said. "I can't say enough about what he's done for the sport."

It wasn't an elbow that Jobe fixed for Orel Hershiser, but rather his shoulder. But it was still a rare procedure, especially in 1990.

"The shoulder surgery he did on me was kind of revolutionary also," Hershiser said. "At the time he cut on me he had done maybe 200 of them but never did it on somebody who had to throw professionally."

Hershiser had anterior labrum reconstruction surgery after his shoulder was, as he described it, "pounded veal." Through research, and studying an earlier surgery on teammate Alejandro Pena, Jobe devised a plan to rebuild Hershiser's shoulder.

Jobe caused bleeding around the shoulder joint, then essentially created a new anterior ligament out of the scar tissue. Part of the intense process involved Hershiser needing to grind his shoulder against the scar five times a day, often with tears in his eyes from the pain.

Hershiser was expected to miss two years, but made it back in 13 months. He praised Jobe for the help along the way.

"He was with you every step of the way," Hershiser said. "The thing I'm reminded of is how many times he consoled me with what's going on in my surgery.

"He was not only our doctor, he was our friend. He had a very dry sense of humor, a very gravely voice for such a kind soul."

Hershiser won 99 games before the surgery. He won 105 after, and pitched 10 more seasons.

"If there is a medical wing of the Hall of Fame, he should definitely be in. He's touched more wins, more saves, more at-bats than anybody in baseball history. He's extended the joy of every baseball fan because he allowed great players and any big leaguer to get back on the field," Hershiser said. "He changed sports medicine for a long, long time. Even to this day, because of his teaching abilities and his fellowship program most of the doctors around the big leagues were trained by him."

Stan Conte, the Dodgers director of medical services, had the pleasure of speaking with Jobe on several occasions in the last decade.

"Most times when a surgery is performed for the first time, it's modified a lot of different times and mutated. This surgery is pretty much done the same way it was done in 1974, with a few exceptions. That tells you he was right on the mark in regards to what he was trying to do," Conte said. "He would tell you he was making this up as he went along, based on good science, but it took a huge amount of guts to put himself out there, where a failure would have been shown to everybody. He was willing to do that to try and get the player back out on the field."

Conte wanted people to remember Jobe for not only his pioneering work in sports medicine, but also for his service. Jobe was a sergeant in the infantry of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

"His World War II accolades are unbelievable," Conte said. "He was captured by the Germans for several hours, but escaped and got to this little town, Bastogne, where he thought he was safe. Then he was rescued by Patton. It was something he very rarely talked about, unless you drew it out of him."

The humility struck Hershiser, too.

"It's hard to say that Dr. Jobe would be proud of anything because he was such a humble man. You're talking about a guy who was at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II," Hershiser said. "You're talking about a guy that had bullets and schrapnel flying around as he watched surgeons work on people in the war. He came back from that and was inspired to become a surgeon.

"He had a brilliant mind but never acted like he was the smartest guy in the room. You're talking about someone who could have walked around like they were God as he repaired and took care of everyone, but walked around like he was the lowest on the totem pole, and waited to be talked to and waited to be recognized.

"He would never take the chair at a table, even though he deserved it."