ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Tommy and Frank (2013)

Directed by Richie Keen

In today’s day and age, the procedure is common place for Major League pitchers who mess their arms up. Get the surgery, rest and rehab, and back on the mound in about twelve months time. But before Tommy and Frank, a pitcher’s career was toast if they threw out their elbow. Dr. Frank Jobe, the team physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers, decided to try an experimental surgery on pitcher Tommy John after John experienced unbearable pain in his pitching elbow. The surgery was the first of its kind in the sport, taking a healthy tendon from somewhere else in the body and replace it with the damaged ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. Jobe gave John a 1 in a 100 chance of being able to pitch again. Pitch again he did, going on to win 164 games after the surgery, and leading the way for close to 500 pitchers to experience the same career re-birth after a debilitating elbow injury.

The surgery, today known as Tommy John surgery, revolutionized the game for its ability to keep talented players in the major leagues, extending their careers longer than they could have ever imagined in the past. Richie Keen’s short film does an adequate job of presenting us with the relationship between Jobe and John, as well as the impact the procedure has made on the game of baseball. I would strongly recommend catching this 12 minute short to all fans of baseball who have never heard the story of “the surgery”. It is indeed nearly a shame that Dr. Jobe rarely gets the same recognition as Tommy John, who was simply the patient to Jobe’s experimental mastermind, but sometimes that is how the history books are written. No doubt those who have benefited from the surgery know and thank Jobe for his advancement in the medical field.

Keen, in such a short time, does a good job of presenting the relationship between player and doctor. It is obvious in interviews that John is forever grateful for what his friend did for him, and he makes it a point to call him his friend first and his doctor second. Jobe is simply a joy to listen to. I really wish I could have spent just a little more time with his infectious smile and exuberant storytelling. For such an important figure, he seems giddy to just get his due credit and 15 minutes of fame on camera to describe his wonderful relationship with his friend Tommy John. The film is simple, not nearly as interesting as Jobe, or revolutionary as the procedure it chronicles, but it gets its story across in a short amount of time, hopefully filling many in on the man behind the surgery, Dr. Frank Jobe, and just how good of a pitcher Tommy John was (288 career wins).

**1/2 – Average

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