Me and Mr. Surgery himself

Interview with Tommy John


The good folks over at Jax Car Wash and Speedy Lube of Maywood, NJ hosted a promotional event with pitching legend Tommy John sponsored by Mobil Super this morning, and they invited me to stop by to interview him. Why they invited me, I have no idea. However, I’m the last person to look a gift horse in the mouth.

He was an affable guy and very well-spoken (though he did stutter a bit). Tommy was cracking jokes and keeping it light-hearted the whole time. I thought he’d be a cranky old man, though he was anything but. If I didn’t know he was a former professional athlete, I never would have guessed it.

Read the transcript after the jump.

Me:

What was it like being the first to have the surgery?

Tommy John:

“When it was done in ’74 I never thought it would be as big as it is now. It’s almost epidemic, especially with young kids — 14, 15, 13 ,12. Dr. Andrews and I were talking and he’s seen them in there as young as 12. His take on it is it borders on child abuse; the parents think that these kids can be Mike Mussinas and all these guys if they pitch year ’round. At that age you don’t year ’round, you need to do other sports. You can play baseball; if you’re a hitter you can hit, hit, hit but if you’re a pitcher you gotta take the four or five months off and play football, basketball and then play baseball when it’s baseball weather.

Me:

Since you were the first to have it, how’d it come about?

TJ:

“I just tore the ligament and I tried to rehab and it wouldn’t work, he said ‘you don’t need the surgery but if you do not have it you’ll never pitch Major League Baseball again.’ I wanted to pitch Major League Baseball again so I said ‘OK let’s get it done if that’s the only way then it’s gotta be done.’ So there was really no downside risk.

Me:

Would you ever want to come back and manage again?

TJ:

“I wouldn’t mind it. I wouldn’t mind managing in Independent League. It’s fun.

Me:

Would you ever want to manage in the Majors?

TJ:

“That would be fun. But I would make sure that I would have somebody with me, I would have some very good baseball minds with me. When Bob Boone first managed Kansas City he brought Gene Mauch back, when I saw that I kind of smiled and laughed because Mauch would be the perfect guy, Don Zimmer — the perfect guy. Zim has seen everything, he has seen everything and you need somebody like that to bounce things off of. Like, ‘what do you think about playing the infield in this early in the game?’ [he'd say] ‘I wouldn’t do it here’s why boom, boom, boom. Or here’s why I think I should boom, boom, boom.’ But if you get somebody that just goes ‘yeah, Tommy. That’s right.’ (it won’t work.) You need somebody that is willing to express their opinion.

Me:

Do you follow or use sabermetrics and what do you think about them?

TJ:

No. I don’t. I have no idea what they’re about.

Me:

Who was your favorite team to play for?

TJ:

Organizationaly, the Dodgers. The Dodgers treated you like family. From the ambiance of the city and the fans, it’s the Yankees hands down. I think the Northeast — Boston, New York and Philadelphia — have outstanding fans. They’re obnoxious, but Boston fans are only obnoxious if you wear pinstripes; Yankee fans are only obnoxious if you wear a gray uniform; and Philly fans are just obnoxious whether you’re with the Phillies or the other team. (New York) fans keep you on your toes because they’re very knowledgable and they read and listen to everything, so if you come out with some BS excuse fans can see right through it.

Me:

Who was your favorite teammate?

TJ:

Dusty Baker was a good one, Donnie Mattingly, Rick Rhoden was good, Gary Peters. I had a lot of ‘em that I enjoyed.

Me:

Do you think the Veterans Committee will elect you to the Hall of Fame?

TJ:

I don’t have any idea. It’d be a thrill but if they do, they do and if they don’t, they don’t.


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