Posted on: March 17, 2010 1:45 pm

The Ray Chapman Story, And Thommy John Surgery

Todays post is a double feature, thus to again try to raise my value so that my overall goes up so that I can be one of the top members on this site. Don't judge me.  Also, the Ray Chapman story, and the history of Thommy John Surgery are very similar.  Both caught bad breaks, but only one even survived!  So here it goes.

I will start off with the Ray Chapman story.  One day back in the early 1900's (flashback) pitchers could do whatever they wanted to make a ball basically unhittable.  Often times they would put it in mud or dirt, and even tobacco juice (eww!). Also the spitball back then was very common, a ball that flew like a curveball, but much more of a break.  Chapman came into that game not a Superstar, but one of the more consistent players in the league.  He was hitting .303 on the year.  On the very first pitch, Mays (the pitcher) delivered a low sidearm spitball.  Now the sun had been brutal that day, and players didn't wear batting helmets, so Chapman couldn't see the pitch.  It slammed right into his left skull.  Chapman was down and out immediately but Mays thought that it was a slow grounder back to the pitcher (it had so much impact) and he threw it to first base.  When the play was over he looked to the astonishment of his teammates.  The umpire quickly yelled for a doctor and had decided to call off the game immeidately.  As an abluence arrived, and Chapman's teammates carried him to the ambulence, he regained consiousness one last time and said, "Tell Mays not to worry".

Later in the day at the hospital, a surgeon found out some horrible news.  The impact of the ball hitting into Chapman's left skull, caused it to force damage onto his right skull.  There was almost nothing he could do to prevent the damage.  After 4 hours of surgery, Ray Chapman passed away. News of death spread around pretty quickly the next day, and Mays had so much guilt, he actually turned himself into the police.  He was not guilty of any crime. The death also had two effects on baseball.  First the spitball was banned, pronto!  Also, batting helmets were introduced to the players, much to the dismay of the players, they began wearing them.

This next story is about how the Thommy John surgery was born.  It was a great pitching day back in the middle-late 1900's (another flashback). Thommy John came in that year, pitching in his 12 season.  While facing a batter, John threw a pitch, when he felt his arm hurting.  He thought it was a strain, but x-rays revealed even worse news than that.  Years of pitching has perminately weakened his UCL. There was a chance John might never pitch again.  John wasn't ready to take that option and retire, so the Dodgers showed him Dr. Jobe, a doctor who had been working on a surgery called UCL reconstruction.  It meant taking a tendon or a ligament from somewhere else in the body and replace the worn out ligament with a new one.  Problem was that Jobe had only performed this surgery on three patients, none of them atheletes.  There was only a 1% chance that the surgery would go well enough so that John could pitch.  If the surgery didn't go well at all, John was at risk of serious nerve damage.  Despite the odds, John agreed to go under the knife.  The operation took about three hours to remove a tendon from somewhere else in the body, and replace the worn out ligament with the tendon.  But here is the catch.  Pitchers who have this surgery have to sit out a year.  Why?  Because it will take some time to convert a tendon into a ligament.  Tendon's and ligaments perform different functions.  John returned two years later to post a 10-10 record, and play in the majors for 13 more years, until 46.  Now despite only 3 surgeons performing the surgery, 89 players, mostly pitchers have gone under the knife. Now instead of UCL reconstruction, it is called Thommy John Surgery.

So with that comes the end of our double feature.  Special Thanks to the Bathroom Reader for the information.  See you next time.  Next entry is due Saturday so be sure to be here!

Category: MLB
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