Tommy John donates cast to Smithsonian Institute

Tommy John donates cast to Smithsonian Institute
Tommy John donates cast to Smithsonian Institute
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 4:02 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Tommy John, when most baseball fans hear the name, they think of a surgery performed in effort to save a pitcher’s career. Nearly 50 years after the first surgery, Tommy John donated the cast he wore following the first-of-a-kind medical procedure to the world’s largest museum.

In a Friday ceremony at the National Museum of American History, John formally donated the cast from the first “Tommy John” surgery to the Smithsonian Institute.

Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, Lonnie Bunch, said, “When you become part of the Smithsonian, what you really are, is you become part of America’s collective memory.”

In 1974, Tommy John, then a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, injured a ligament in his throwing arm. Back then the injury meant his baseball career was over -- so it seemed. Dodgers doctor Frank Jobe made history by surgically reconstructing John’s ligament, saving his career.

In an interview with Gray Television’s Washington News Bureau, John said, “1974, I took a step. I had no idea of where I was going, but all of the sudden Dr. Jobe gave me a flashlight and I found my way home.”

Steve Garvey, John’s former Dodgers teammate, attended Friday’s ceremony and led those in attendance in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Garvey reflected on watching Tommy John’s recovery from the cutting edge surgery.

Garvey said, “It was one step at a time to the point where he could go back and try again. And then could he sustain it. And lo and behold, he sustained it for 288 wins. And what I think as a Hall of Fame career.”

The ligament reconstruction surgery, now commonly known as “Tommy John” surgery, is credited with helping save hundreds of athletic careers.

Smithsonian Institute officials said Tommy John’s cast will be part of the entertainment and sports history collections at its Museum of American History. However, they said there are currently no plans to display the cast.

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