The old pitcher rises above the din of clanking wine glasses and over a thousand guests telling each other to hush. His suit is dark blue and his eyes are light blue and he shimmies up to the ballroom podium like it's the mound in the first inning. He doesn't scan the 110 packed tables. He's not gazing out to the left, trying to locate his framed No. 25 jersey in the auction area. He doesn't pull a marked-up piece of paper from his pocket. This is all instinct, like warmup tosses before his 713 starts in the big leagues over 26 years. The left-hander, who's approaching 70, fields the microphone from his presenter, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. A minute later, he's cruising through the early innings of a long-tested routine.
"If he would have told me to go stand naked at Dodger Stadium, that it would heal my arm, I would have done it," Tommy John says. "It would have made everybody laugh, but ... I believed in Frank Jobe."
John sweats a tad in the heat of a televised glow. Three monster video screens and poster-board images of six honorees, including Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench and Jim Leyland, are stuck high on the walls above him. It's Jan. 14, 2012, and he's in the cavernous downstairs Los Angeles Room of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, introducing Dr. Jobe, his old surgeon, at the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation's annual fundraiser dinner. Jobe is about to receive another plaque for which to find space on an office wall running out of it. This one is the Dave Winfield Humanitarian Award.
John has learned that these words don't require much setup. He and Dr. Jobe, he says often, have become Abbott and Costello, or Burns and Allen, or McMillan and Wife. Take your pick. They can't ever seem to get out of each other's way, in the best of ways. They're pedaling a tandem bicycle into eternity.
So John does what he does. He tells the story again. There he was, on the mound in Dodger Stadium in September 1974, with a 13-3 record and a 2.59 ERA, and there went his elbow. A jet engine roaring out of his hand followed by a searing heat and pain the likes of which he'd never felt. One more pitch and a walk to the dugout, head down.
There were no MRIs back then, only X-rays, but Jobe, the team physician, and his buddy Herb Stark, a renowned hand surgeon, figured out that it was a torn ulnar collateral ligament. John wanted to pitch, and Dr. Jobe had an idea of how they could make it happen again. The odds were long. The rehab would be longer.
John is deft and precise as he steers the anecdote of his life toward its famous conclusion: 164 victories later, John's career had been saved. Almost 30 years later, the same can be said for countless others. The audience knows that outrageous amounts of contract money have been awarded to pitchers with rebuilt UCLs. But John, eyes twinkling, knows he's got one more fastball left.
"Not only is he a great surgeon, but I consider him a very, very, very good friend," John says, pausing now, waiting until he knows he's hooked the listeners.
"The other thing that I think people don't know about," he says now, scanning the room, eager to see surprise in the eyes of his audience, "is that his backyard butted up against O.J. Simpson's backyard."
There's mild cackling all around, the room not quite knowing where he's going with this. John flashes a knowing smile before delivering the third strike.
"Sometime, when he's pruning the roses, he's gonna find the knife."
John goes back to his table, where Rob Reiner, who played Meathead on one of the most off-color sitcoms in history, "All in the Family," shakes his head in disbelief.
Minutes later, 86-year-old Frank Jobe finally makes it to the microphone, holding a cane and waiting out a standing ovation he's sure he doesn't deserve. Now it's his turn to follow up his wingman.
The doctor lets the noise die down and the onlookers sit. He stares straight ahead.
"He's a lot funnier than I am," he says. "Isn't he?"
His masterpiece is named after someone else, and he prefers it that way. Of course it wasn't likely that the public would embrace or comprehend or even be able to pronounce the full original name: "Reconstruction of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament Using the Palmaris Longus Tendon." They needed something simple.
"So it's Tommy John Surgery," Dr. Jobe says, more or less, in just about every interview. "And I like the way it sounds, don't you? Two first names, and it just kind of rolls off your tongue."
He might say something like this again in the speech he's been preparing, the one he's thinking about for the first time today as he sits behind his desk high above the freeway mass near the LAX flight path. It's the first day of May in 2013 at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, and the doctor, who will soon be 88, has had his morning massage therapy and dried off from his pool work. He's done his exercises.
Dr. Jobe is in a navy suit with a light blue oxford, chatting on his iPhone. He hangs up and says the call was from a former physical therapy intern at the clinic who moved on to an undergrad PT program at the school of his choice -- helped, he says, "maybe a little," by a phone call Dr. Jobe had made to the dean of admissions. His assistant, Virginia, laughs, knowing he helped a lot.
Dr. Jobe says Jared called to say he got straight A's -- except for one C-plus.
"He apologized for it, and I told him it's OK," Dr. Jobe says. "I got lots of C-plusses."
Virginia sits next to his desk, and the two of them are surrounded by the emblems of his history. There's the big one, the M.D. from Loma Linda University in 1956. There's a dizzying array of degrees and honorary doctorates, a paper timeline of the years that maybe only he can explain: the Western Orthopaedic Association, Los Angeles County Hospital, the Board of Medical Examiners, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American College of Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. There's his award from American Shoulder Surgeons.
There's the Japanese wall, a collection of posters of pitching greats whose arms were saved by the surgery on the other side of the world. There's Frank and his wife of 53 years, Beverly, with sumo wrestlers, eating with chopsticks and drinking beer on one of their many trips to Tokyo. And over here are more of his patients, friends and famous acquaintances, captured in autographed images behind weathered glass: Ronald and Nancy Reagan, James Caan, Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Azinger, Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Tiger Woods, Mark Harmon, Jim McMahon, Orel Hershiser, Tommy Lasorda.
And Tommy John. The same Tommy John who threw a pitch to Expos first baseman Hal Breeden in the third inning of the Dodgers' home game against Montreal on July 17, 1974, and made a beeline for the dugout, replaced by Geoff Zahn.
It took a few months with a cast for Jobe to determine that it wouldn't heal on its own. He saw that the muscles hold your elbow stable for up to 75 percent of your velocity, but beyond that, the pressure transfers to the ligament. It needed to be replaced, but how?
He talked to Herb Stark, who had used tendons for grafts in the hand. He talked to Dr. Jacquelin Perry, a polio specialist, whom he had assisted with a ligament transfer in the ankle. It had worked for stabilization, so Jobe thought maybe something similar would work on the elbow. He'd try the palmaris longus, the tendon that extends from the base of the hand down the inside of the wrist and has no specific purpose for human anatomical function.
Dr. Jobe doesn't remember much about the temporary operating room at Centinela Hospital that he entered along with a conked-out John, Stark, a young Kerlan-Jobe fellow named Stephen Lombardo and hospital staff members. He didn't think the surgery was a big deal because he didn't think it would work.
John had heard that proclamation. It was something along the lines of, "Truth is, I don't really know what I'm doing here," delivered in the doctor's North Carolina drawl with the smile curling up his full lips.
John heard a man who had already operated on his elbow two years earlier, for bone chips, and been thorough and kind and understanding -- a friend. He also heard a human being admitting that he was a human being.
Now Dr. Jobe gets to the part of the story that's always repeated and might very well stick in the middle of his Hall of Fame speech.
"Would it stay there? Would it receive blood vessels? Would it become part of his elbow? We didn't know," he says. "That's why I told him he had about a one in 100 chance, and he said, 'Well, if I don't do anything, I've got zero chance.'
"And then he came in about a week later and said, 'Let's do it,' and those words pretty much changed sports medicine."
Dr. Jobe was not nervous on Sept. 25, 1974, as he drilled holes into John's ulna and humerus bones and grafted the tendon in a basic figure-eight design, held in place by anchors. The only conceivable annoyance might have been Herb Stark pestering Jobe for Lakers tickets intermittently through about 3 1/2 of the four hours of the surgery.
Two days later, Tommy John's first child, a daughter named Tamara, was born.
The physical therapy, overseen by Dodgers trainer Bill Buhler, who devised innovative finger exercises, had its share of minor setbacks but thrust a diligent, confident John back on the mound on April 16, 1976, in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, where the lefty threw five innings of three-run ball in a loss to the Braves. He finished 10-10 with a 3.09 ERA that year. He won 154 more games after that.
Herb Stark died in 1990 at the age of 68. Bill Buhler died in 2003 at the age of 75. Jacquelin Perry died this past March at the age of 95.
The Tommy John surgery takes about 45 minutes these days. Almost 39 years after the first one, its design, save a few minor alterations, remains the same.
Now it's noon, and Dr. Jobe has had enough of this sentimental, reminiscing hooey. He gets up from the seat at his desk and walks past the collection of signed baseball bats in the corner, an autographed hockey stick, a small sculpture of his own hand holding a scalpel and a Tommy John bobblehead doll. He's hungry, it's lunchtime, and he knows where he's going.
They know him here at Dinah's. The host escorts him to a booth by a window, and Dr. Jobe orders the same thing he always orders: half a chicken salad sandwich with a side of cole slaw. He's a man of simple needs, he says, and this place reminds him a bit of North Carolina. Country cooking.
It's a kitschy outpost dwarfed by hyper-developed steel and glass, right around the block from the clinic, near the mega-mall with the multiplex. Dinah's opened in 1959, not too long after Dr. Jobe pulled into town.
Dr. Jobe looks at the tomato slice on his sandwich and it delivers a memory. They grew big and red and juicy in the gardens of his mother, Alma, on the 11 acres they had inherited along Pleasant Garden Road outside Greensboro. He thinks back now and he's there, running through the grass under the two cedar trees in the backyard, the cows down in the meadow, the rolling hills that framed the two-story clapboard house.
His father, Lacey, would take the tomatoes uptown to the post office. He'd put them in a big box, set up a scale in a storage room, let the people weigh their own and run a grocery business on the side that paid for his son's education. Back home, Alma would milk the cows twice a day and churn her own butter.
Frank tried to play baseball. He could catch the ball, but he couldn't hit it. He and his dad would listen to the Yankees on the radio. They'd never see a game together -- no TV, and it was too expensive to travel anywhere. But there was enough money for a glove, and they played catch and talked about Babe Ruth.
Bombs were raining on Europe when Frank Jobe graduated boarding school at Collegedale Academy in Tennessee in 1943, the United States having gone from depression to war. There didn't seem to be much of a choice as to what he'd do next. He didn't question it. Hitler was a bad, mean guy. It was time to get rid of him. He registered for the Army in Maryland and went to Camp Barkeley in Texas. He could type, so he worked himself into the medical division of basic training and became a clerk.
Sure, he was scared while boarding a ship in New York with a group of about 1,000 and steaming toward the fields of battle, but he figured everyone else was, too. He was 18 years old. He wasn't thinking about dying.
His father had been an infantryman in World War I, and he had heard some of the stories from the slogs in the trenches, so he opted for the airborne. Jobe arrived just before the Normandy invasion and lived among a group of 18-year-olds and men in their 30s. He joined the 101st Airborne, Medical Company 326, where he worked in supply with a portable typewriter and would make his runs into the field by glider, crashing each time into foreign soil, a buck private not knowing what might be waiting for him on the ground.
He was part of a massive march, all day and night from Camp Mourmelon in France to Bastogne, Belgium, in mid-December, 1944. He helped set up an aid station that was overrun by German tanks. It was the Battle of the Bulge.
Jobe assisted the doctors. Set back a ways from the front lines, with the sound of shells zipping by, they'd set up light sources and generators if they had to. That's where they did the amputations. He saw blood, and it was just that. Blood. It was red. You needed it. He didn't panic. He didn't see any reason to. That's just the way it was.
At rest camp in the barracks or dining room of the tent camp back at Mourmelon, the doctors looked at him with curiosity.
"What are you gonna do when you get out of here, kid?" they'd say. "Why don't you get into medicine?"
Maybe he did have a knack for it. When he got back to the Tennessee without suffering a scratch, he used the G.I. Bill and enrolled at Southern Missionary College. By 1946, he had packed his Bronze Star medal, his combat medic badge and Gilder Badge with one star for California, finishing school at La Sierra University in Riverside, getting his M.D. at Loma Linda in 1956 and completing his internship at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
In those days, he'd wander down to where the sand ends just a few blocks from where he now sits in a burgundy pleather diner booth. He'd look down at the Pacific and out to the horizon. He'd anticipate, as he still does, what wonder the next day of his life might hold.
Frank and Beverly Jobe are in the flower room. He's visiting with his wife for a while before he heads to Dodger Stadium for the night game against the Rockies. He's sitting next to her on the white sofa with the floral print as the afternoon sun shines through the windows.
Yes, on the other side of their back fence and behind their pool, which was seen from the view of a news helicopter almost every night on TV throughout that bizarre year of 1994, is where O.J. Simpson used to live, on Rockingham. The Jobes can't escape it. Even now, when Bev is taking a walk, she'll encounter tourists asking for directions to that infamous plot where a mansion was razed and rebuilt.
Forty years ago, she saw a Mediterranean-style country villa with a long driveway. It was tucked away in the quiet neighborhood called Brentwood that felt like farmland and that nobody stuck in the L.A. sprawl seemed to know about. She said, "That's it. That's my house." Frank first told her they couldn't afford it, but he found a way.
Now Bev keeps the garden a bit overgrown and mature. She likes it that way. She plants heirloom tomatoes, Frank's favorite, and when they're ripe, he'll walk out to the rows with a knife in one hand and a salt shaker in the other, eating them right off the vine.
Beverly Anderson grew up near Chicago and became a flight attendant for American Airlines. She worked out a transfer to Southern California for six months just to see what it was like, and she came down with tonsillitis. She was referred to a doctor named Frank Jobe, who was delivering babies and giving tetanus shots as a family practitioner, paying off his loans.
Right away, there was an attraction. And a conflict. Doctors aren't supposed to date their patients. How on earth can they do that and remain objective about care? Dr. Jobe forged ahead with a cagey strategy, making an appointment for a tonsillectomy and then rescheduling, telling her, "I think I should have somebody else do your operation for you."
When she found out their first date was lunch at Tiny Naylor's, she told him she thought she was dressed too casually. He told her she was dressed just perfect. When she invited him to her Manhattan Beach apartment and her three roommates helped cook him dinner, it was a done deal.
Not long after they were married, Dr. Jobe got the orthopedic itch. He liked the challenge and the adrenaline of being awakened in the middle of the night and summoned to the hospital to attend to victims of car crashes. It made sense. When something in the body is wrong, you go in and fix it.
Soon another lasting union formed. Jobe knew Dr. Bob Kerlan from his USC days, when Kerlan was his chief. In Jobe's second year of residence, Kerlan, who had bad arthritis but a big smile and charisma to match, said, "Hey Jobe, come here." Jobe did what he was told.
"So what are you gonna do when you finish here?"
"I don't know. That's three years away."
"Well, come see me."
Three years later, Frank Jobe walked into Bob Kerlan's office on Stocker Street. They sat and talked and Kerlan made Jobe an offer. They shook on it. They never had to again.
The wheels of the black Mercedes roll on hot asphalt, and Frank Jobe is sitting in the back, explaining what it's like to take a small, very sharp blade, slice into a person's arm, pull the flaps of skin apart and look at the blood and parts and nerves inside as if they're all lined up and numbered, as if they're chapters in a textbook, one with oversized type.
He's describing what it's like to drill holes into bones, how "easy" and "nice" it is work with this palette, because when you've studied all of it and know it cold, when you're on a never-ending tour of the body and its three dimensions during every waking hour, when you hover just above any organ and know what's there an inch deep, an inch to the left of that, and around every microscopic bend of every tiny red river in between, this is when you and the knife are one. This is when everything fits. This is when you know you will repair whatever might be wrong.
He knows he'll never again operate. He last assisted on a surgery at least five years ago, to the best of his recollection. Imagine the headline-worthy doozy of a lawsuit that would ensue over the slightest mistake if he did it now, he says. Still, he can rehash the cases, the surgical works of art that have inspired others to label him a pioneer. These days, this is one of the things he loves the most.
The man behind the wheel is Jesus Cuevas, who has been with the Jobes for 22 years, driving and doing odd jobs around the house. As the sedan navigates the winding ribbons of concrete that will once again take 24 miles and turn them into an hour and a half, inching from the 405 to the 105 to the 110 and curling around the hillside homes that creep to the top of Chavez Ravine, Dr. Jobe remembers.
He points to his left to a cluster of high-rises under the smog. Right around there was Daniel Freeman Hospital, where Dr. Jobe did his first surgery. It was 1964 and it was Johnny Podres, the hero of Game 7 of the 1955 World Series, when the Brooklyn Dodgers had finally beaten the Yankees. Kerlan had become team doctor for the Dodgers when they moved here in 1958, and now Podres had been hit in the left elbow by a batted ball, jarring a bone chip loose. Jobe was on edge, but Kerlan made him feel like he didn't have to be. He did great, and Kerlan told him so.
A year later, the two started their own business, the Southwestern Orthopaedics Medical Group. It was rechristened Kerlan-Jobe, and eventually Bob and Frank took care of the Dodgers, the Lakers, the Los Angeles Rams football team, the jockeys at the Southern California racetracks and the National Hockey League's L.A. Kings and Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
In the office and in the operating room, the men were looking to define sports medicine. They knew orthopedic procedures and physical therapy methods for athletes had to be unique and innovative. Outside those walls, Kerlan was the salesman, the public face of the partnership. He loved the ponies and the glitz and would gladly drag his hunched-over, pain-wracked body to any social function around town, where he'd meet up with buddies Walter Matthau, Danny Kaye and other Hollywood heroes.
Jobe preferred invisibility. He and Bev were raising four sons -- Chris, Blair, Meredith and Cameron -- and Frank's version of an L.A. getaway was taking the boys to ride horses on a 400-acre ranch he had bought in Hemet, out in the dry, brown Inland Empire country at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. There was no house, just a trailer. There were some cattle. The solitude reminded Frank of Carolina. When the boys got old enough, they'd summer there, bunking down in a double-wide under the stars.
When they weren't tooling around in the light blue 1962 Chevy Impala with no air conditioning that Frank had bought them for $400, Chris and Meredith were learning about medicine. Turns out there were plenty of little critters on the property, rodent poison causes internal bleeding, and internal bleeding causes extreme thirst. The young Jobe brothers grasped this first-hand when they'd come back to the trailer after a week and find the toilet stuffed with dead rats.
Chris loved anatomy and sports medicine and ended up being one of three doctors who figured out how pitchers were tearing their rotator cuffs. Meredith couldn't stand the sight of blood and became a successful lawyer. Blair Jobe went into heart, lung and esophageal surgery. Cameron found his calling in finance. Between the four boys, Frank and Bev have eight grandchildren.
The car is inching toward downtown L.A., and Frank Jobe is smiling, talking about how lucky he is to have all this love in his life. And now this: an honor from the Hall of Fame. It's almost too much for him to believe, he says.
He wasn't certain Tommy John surgery would even last. Tommy had come back, but maybe Tommy was the only one who could withstand the reconstruction and have the will and strength to do so. It could very well have been a fluke. So Jobe waited two years before doing his second one on another Dodgers pitcher, Brent Strom. That one worked, it led to a few more, including one on a javelin thrower, and on Oct. 1, 1986, he and Herb Stark and Stephen Lombardo were sure enough to publish the procedure in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
As average fastball velocity grew over the years, so did the frequency of UCL tear diagnoses. The surgery became easier, too. Before his death in June of 2013, Jobe's former fellow and eventual Kerlan-Jobe partner, Angels team doctor Lewis Yocum, had devised methods to speed up the operation, which now takes about 45 minutes. James Andrews, David Altchek and Neal ElAttrache became sports medicine celebrities by performing Tommy John after Tommy John.
But Jobe wasn't only an elbow surgeon. His shoulder reconstruction of Orel Hershiser in 1990 using bone anchors saved that pitcher's career. He spent years working with golfers on the PGA Tour.
As the car climbs through Elysian Park and Dodger Stadium appears, Frank Jobe is out of time. The memories will have to wait. He's asked once more about Bob Kerlan, about their perfect partnership that never wavered. He doesn't cry, but he gathers his words for a moment. Kerlan died in September 1996, when he went to the hospital for his fourth hip replacement and had a massive heart attack.
"I miss him," Jobe says. "We were buddies."
Jesus drives past all the Porsches and BMWs owned by the Dodgers players. He parks the black Mercedes in the front, center spot of the big-league lot. Dr. Jobe's spot. That's what it's like when you've been with a team for almost 50 years and you're still on the payroll. Along with legendary manager Tommy Lasorda and legendary pitcher Don "Newk" Newcombe, legendary doctor Frank W. Jobe is listed as "Special Advisor to the Chairman."
And he's here to earn that money. Jesus helps him into the elevator under old-timey chandeliers in the shape of baseballs and they head right to the clubhouse level, where they follow a corridor dotted with reproductions of every Sports Illustrated cover that's ever featured a Dodger. They're on the way to the trainers' room, and Dr. Jobe shows off the new facility. This place has undergone an expansion and transformation since new ownership took over. There's still an odor of new paint lingering in the hallway that overlooks the posh, sunken indoor batting cages.
Dr. Jobe enters the training room where tonight's starter, Josh Beckett, is undergoing last-minute treatment, and right-hander Zack Greinke, recovering from a broken collarbone, ambles by on the way to his next round. Within a minute he's greeted by Stan Conte, the Dodgers' vice president of medical services, and their head and assistant athletic trainers, Sue Falsone, Nancy Patterson and Greg Harrel. The Dodgers, who have a player payroll of almost $240 million, are 13-13. Outfielder Yasiel Puig is in Double-A Chattanooga. The big league team is racked with injuries, and the blogosphere is already cyber-firing manager Don Mattingly.
Conte smiles when he shakes Dr. Jobe's hand. He and Patterson have been working with MLB's research committee on studies of Tommy John surgery from the Minor Leagues on up.
Falsone's big blue eyes get bigger and bluer. She remembers being brought in to the team's former spring home in Vero Beach, Fla., as a consultant in 2008 and walking right past All-Star players because she saw a real-life hero, Dr. Frank Jobe, entering the room.
Patterson laughs at one of his jokes and offers the old doctor a seat. They all know he's here to talk, to observe, and to answer questions ... if they want to ask him any. He won't stand over their shoulders and question what they're doing. He never has.
Game time approaches and Dr. Jobe heads out, letting the "real professionals do their work." When he exits the elevator on the press-box level, Newcombe and his wife, Karen, are waiting for him with hugs and kisses and compliments on how sharp he's dressed and how young he looks.
"I can't believe you're not in the Hall of Fame yet," Newk says.
"Thanks," Dr. Jobe says. "But the honor is something I never expected. It's really amazing. Flattering."
Newk isn't satisfied.
"I'll call Obama," he says, waving as he walks away. "He and I are friends."
Vin Scully's voice rings from the TV screen in the private dining room adjacent to the press box cafeteria. Dodgers chef Dave Pearson has already personally delivered the beginnings of a dinner apropos for this honored guest: an appetizer of fresh tomato slices and mozzarella drizzled in balsamic vinaigrette, and a main course of braised short ribs. Fernando Valenzuela sits a few tables away. Dr. Jobe looks up at the screen, awaiting the first pitch.
"It's time for Dodger baseball," Scully sings, and soon Beckett is pitching to Colorado leadoff man Eric Young Jr., whose father was a Dodger and sometime patient of Dr. Jobe's in the 1990s.
This is life at the ballpark these days. Dr. Jobe usually lasts about four innings before he gets tired. At this rate, with Beckett deliberate and the Rockies stacking the bases, he might only last three.
It's a drag, he admits, his body just not working the way it used to. The country-boy fondness for eggs, milk and Haagen-Dazs which might have had something to do with the open-heart, four-vessel coronary artery bypass graft surgery he underwent in 2002 -- and was followed up with a small defibrillator implant eight years later -- has given way to an occasional date with a smaller serving of Dreyer's Slow Churned Light. Tonight, he does even better. Dave brings by a half-serving of vanilla frozen yogurt with a berry medley on top.
The doctor in him tells people that the demands of the human body are easy to satisfy for the disciplined. We know that we eat too much and we drink too much and we stay up too late, and Dr. Jobe supposes that if you did everything just exactly right, just perfectly, and you ate just enough food, you might be able to live until you were 150.
"But then you wouldn't have any fun," he says, with a laugh and another spoonful of dessert.
He tells people that the fact that he's alive at 88, still talking and still thinking, is magical. For as much anatomy as he's studied, sliced into, reorganized, cauterized and stitched back up, he still can't explain how the body knows when it needs a little potassium here or a bit more calcium there and manages to propel those nourishments right into the bloodstream before delivering them in the right place.
"Isn't it something?" he says. "It just works."
Until it doesn't. He saw it with Bob Kerlan in 1996. He's seen it lately with his war buddies. Medical Unit 326 has had reunions every year for as long as he can remember, in the mountains of North Carolina and the flats of Ohio and right here in a luxury box above Dodger Stadium. Sixty men attended the first. Eleven attended the last, and two more have died since then.
"If I was 18 during the war and they were 36," Dr. Jobe says, "then they have a right to die now."
The doctor thumbs through obituaries and sees the ages of the deceased, usually between 70 and 90. He says he tries not to think about it, and Bev likes that strategy. She reminds him that the plan is for him to live until he's 110. And after that? Who knows? He doesn't see much evidence that life goes on beyond. He often says his religion, while technically Seventh Day Adventist, is more about how you treat your fellow man.
He says he doesn't want anyone to be saddened by his death. He wants a party. Bury him and then have a good time, just like at Bob Kerlan's ceremony, although Dr. Jobe can't imagine his memorial will be held at the track.
Enough of that talk, though. It's finally the bottom of the first, the Dodgers are batting, the camera is zooming in on Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio and Frank Jobe is right there with it. He has shoved the yogurt cup to the side. He has removed the napkin from his collar. He has shifted forward in his seat.
"It takes a lot of nerve for Juan Nicasio to be out there pitching after what happened to him in August of 2011," Scully says. "He was hit by a line drive and suffered a broken neck."
Dr. Jobe doesn't notice Adrian Gonzalez swinging at a 1-1 pitch and missing. He's peering into the focused eyes of Nicasio, wondering what lurked behind them that night, what hot fears and doubts and questions must have been snarling within him as he arrived at the hospital.
"The ball struck him on the right side of the head," Scully says. "It went off the bat of the Nationals' Ian Desmond. He was down for the count for several minutes, carried off the field, had surgery, and here he is, right back at it."
Nicasio, enjoying a 3-0 lead, fires another pitch to the plate, but Jobe doesn't see the ball. He's affixed to the neck now, the rocking back and forth upon delivery, the violence of the motion. The camera zooms in on the scar, a three-inch diagonal line that travels from under the bottom back line of Nicasio's close-cropped hair to the top of his back, and Dr. Jobe looks like he wants to leap out of his seat straight into that operating room two years ago, to know everything he can about the case: what surgery was done, who did it, how complicated it was, what was discussed before, during and after.
"What they did to stabilize a fracture to the C-1 vertebrae ... two screws were inserted in the top of those vertebrae along with a small plate at the base of the skull," Scully says. "And they are permanent."
The doctor doesn't notice it. He's waiting for another look at Nicasio.
The traffic isn't too bad on the 405 tonight heading back from the ballpark. That's a good thing. Dr. Jobe will be home by 10, asleep by 11. The doctor is looking out the window at the lights of mid-Wilshire, still thinking about his Hall of Fame speech, plotting it in words.
It'll be about sports medicine, he says. Has to be. The science and profession and passion that go into it are much, much bigger than Frank Jobe or Tommy John or Orel Hershiser or any of the thousands who followed. He'll thank a few people, of course. He's concerned that his mouth will dry up and his voice will crack. That happens pretty quickly these days. So he'll take his time. He and Bev will have cough drops handy.
While Frank Jobe gives his five-minute speech, a group of about 75 family members, friends, colleagues and former Kerlan-Jobe fellows will root him on. A lot of those folks are part of an active campaign to get Jobe inducted into the Hall. Right now there's no category for someone like the doctor, but the movement has its own website and an advisory board that includes Scully, Sandy Koufax, Hershiser, Andrews and Tommy John.
The campaign was conjured two years ago during a catered meal at a wine shop in New York attended by giants of modern sports medicine. Everyone received a custom booklet with photographs spanning Jobe's life and recited a paragraph about their time with the old doctor. By the time the drinks were flowing, the Hall of Fame was in the discussion. At the time, they didn't even have the hard evidence that would come during this year's All-Star break, when injury expert Will Carroll of Bleacher Report proved in a study that approximately one-third of all current Major League pitchers have had Tommy John surgery.
Frank Jobe was not present for the dinner and didn't know anything about it, but he knows now. He also knows that nobody told him about the campaign for the Hall of Fame because he would have told them not to bother.
The honor is coming first. At 4:30 p.m. on July 27, with 40 Hall of Fame players looking on and a crowd of anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000, Tommy John will introduce him once again, and Frank Jobe will look out onto the old-time grandstand seating bowl of Doubleday Field, where Henry Aaron and Ted Williams once played.
"It'll be fun," Dr. Jobe says.
Jesus exits the 405 at Sunset, and the car is quiet when he pulls into the gate of the house with the long driveway on the leafy block. He helps Dr. Jobe out of the back seat, leads him to the door, walks him in, says goodnight and gets back in the car to drive to his family on the east side of town. The light goes out as he pulls away.
In the car, Jesus says he's never come across a human being as wonderful as Frank Jobe. Everyone who knows him adores him, and Dr. Jobe treats them all with the same amount of decency and respect. For the last 22 years, Jesus says, he has not been able to figure out what he has done to deserve such fortune in his life.
He says it out loud because Frank Jobe isn't there to hear it.