Back in 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe performed what, at the time, was a revolutionary elbow surgery on then-Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. It was John’s best chance to stay in baseball, so he took it.
The latest 30 for 30 Short, “Tommy and Frank,” published on Grantland, provides an intimate and funny take on the unique relationship. John, a chatty Indiana lefty who won 288 games, credits the unassuming orthopedist with saving the pitcher’s career.
Front Row had a chance to chat about the film with John, who stood by Jobe as on Sunday he was honored by the National Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
What was your response when you were approached about participating in Tommy and Frank?
I loved the thought of getting the word out about what a great surgeon Dr. Jobe was, but also what an even better human being he is. I enjoy being interviewed about baseball and Tommy John Surgery in particular. [The director, Richie Keen] filmed quickly and without pain. It was better than a root canal. I would do anything, anytime for Dr. Jobe.
You were also interviewed for one of ESPN’s recent Nine for IX films called Let Them Wear Towels about female reporters’ struggle for equal access to male locker rooms. What did you think about that film?
I haven’t had a chance to see that finished film yet, but I remember quite vividly about the time when [then-Sports Illustrated reporter] Melissa Ludtke came to me [John was the Dodgers’ player representative in 1977]. I remember when I went to Red Patterson, [Dodgers] Director of Media Relations, with Melissa’s request — one would have thought I asked for his firstborn.
All I wanted to know was did she have credentials from MLB? I didn’t think at that time that it would be an ESPN piece about women in the clubhouse. I didn’t have a problem with it then and don’t have a problem now. My favorite female reporter was [former newspaper baseball beat reporter, current ESPN baseball news editor] Claire Smith.
Do you have a favorite 30 for 30 film?
My favorite was the “Greeny[Mike Greenberg]/[Mike] Golic Insanity Workout.” Wait, they didn’t make that one yet, did they? I can’t really narrow it down to a particular favorite 30 for 30.
Were you curious about how the screening of Tommy and Frank would go at the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony?
Not at all. I knew folks would love it. Dr. Jobe deserves all the praise he got at the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony and now that folks can see the short, people will know all about Tommy and Frank.