Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1981 TOPPS TOMMY JOHN


ALONG WITH BABE RUTH,
THE MOST FAMOUS NAME IN BASEBALL.


FOR THOSE OVER 40, MAGNIFYING GLASS RECOMMENDED.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • Picked up this autographed Tommy John at the May card show a few weeks ago, along with a complete 1987 Donruss set, for $9. Is this actually John's autograph? Who knows, but I can't imagine there's a cottage industry of Tommy John forgers out there.
  • As documented about Google searches, when you type ''tommy j'' the auto-fill feature spits out ''tommy john surgery.'' No surprise. While his elbow ligament transplant procedure in '74 was a landmark medical development for athletes, John, a sinkerball extraordinaire, had one helluva 26-year career that's been largely ignored. He won 288 games, had a 3.34 ERA and was runner-up in Cy Young voting in '77 and '79.

THE BACK PAGE

  • John was entering his 18th season, so his stat type was beginning to shrink like the MPH on his fastball.
  • Never good to see ON DISABLED LIST on the back of your baseball card.
  • Happy 70th Birthday!

PHOTO PLAY

  • Even if you didn't know John was a soft-tosser, you could deduce it from this photo.
  • John or the forger managed to fit the sig in a good spot.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • The White Sox sent John to the Dodgers, along with infielder Steve Huntz, for Dick Allen in December 1971.
  • Before John's surgery, he was 124-106 with a 2.97 ERA in 2,100-plus innings. Afterward, he was 164-125 with a 3.66 ERA in 2,500-plus innings, including winning 20-plus games three times. Amazing to think no previous pitcher ever came back from such an injury and for him to win 164 games ... well, it was a medical marvel.
  • John was having one of his best seasons in '74 when he blew out the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow on July 17. He left his start against the Expos after facing two batters in the third. 
  • Surgeon Frank Jobe took a tendon from from John's right forearm and slapped it into the left elbow. The Frankenstein-type operation turned into a medical breakthrough that would save countless careers, beginning with John's.


  • He missed all of '75 rehabbing and learning a new motion that teammate Mike Marshall, who was studying kinesiology at the time, helped him with.
  • On April 16, 1976, against the Braves in Atlanta, John returned to the mound, pitching five innings and allowing three runs in a 3-1 loss. He finished 10-10 in that comeback season.
  • Won 20 and then 17 games in his last two years with the Dodgers before becoming a free agent and signing with the Yankees in '79.
  • Won 21 games in his first year in pinstripes and then a career-high 22 in '80, the last of three consecutive All-Star seasons.
  • After a 9-8, 2.63 season in '81, John's career stagnated, but he did win a combined 14 games with New York and California in '82; the Yanks shipped him to the Angels for a player to be named, which ended up being pitcher Dennis Rasmussen.
  • After going 27-39 with a 4.40 ERA from '83-'86, John had one last good year in '87 for the Yankees, who reacquired him as a free agent before the season. He went 13-6 with a 4.03 ERA.
  • Because he was an effective sinkerball pitcher, he gave up few homers, allowing an average of 14 a season.
  • Was the oldest player in the game during his final two seasons in '88 (45) and '89 (46).
  • In that final season, he tied a record for seasons played that was broken by Nolan Ryan, who played 27 years.
  • When did John decide enough was enough? When Mark McGwire got two hits off him in '89. McGwire's dad was John's dentist. "When your dentist's kid starts hitting you, it's time to retire.''
  • As I've aged, I have developed a lot of respect for guys like Tommy John.
  • If I ever have the chance to get John's autograph, I'd consider getting it on the underside of my right forearm near the elbow and then having it inked as a tattoo. I think that'd be cool. 

1 comment:

  1. I am 43 years old. Last month I bought a magnifying glass for the purpose of reading small type on the backs of baseball cards, oh prophetic one!

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