“‘I’ll be having Tommy John tomorrow. God bless.’”
That’s Sister Jean, the Catholic nun who rose to national fame five years ago, at the age of 98, during Loyola University Chicago’s otherworldly run to the Final Four in the NCAA basketball tournament. The still-active team chaplain, a member of the BVM order, had just thrown, submarine style, a ceremonial first pitch marking her 104th birthday before a Cubs game at Wrigley Field when she issued her Tommy John quip.
No laughing matter, that surgical procedure, of course — as all-round baseball megatalent Shohei Ohtani can attest. The Japan-born pitcher and power hitter, 29, is weighing a second such procedure, having previously gone under the knife in 2018, the same year as the Loyola tournament run.
The procedure, formally a reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow, was pioneered in the 1970s by Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe and first performed on Los Angeles Dodgers lefthander Tommy John, who went on to resume a celebrated pitching career (and to become so closely linked with the surgical intervention that, at times, mention of his name renders the word surgery superfluous, as in Sister Jean’s wisecrack).
Ohtani, who also toils in the Los Angeles area, as a member of the — attention: Sister Jean — Angels, would become part of a wave of pitchers in recent years requiring a second Tommy John surgery.
Chicago Cubs pitcher Jameson Taillon, quoted Sunday in the Chicago Tribune, offered encouraging words, based on his experience as as two-time Tommy John patient. After his first procedure, in 2014, he said, he told fellow players who sought advice about the ordeal that they should prepare “to never feel good ever again.”
After his second surgery, five years later, he felt as if he had “a new arm.”