Friday, July 8, 2011

1967 Topps Chicago White Sox #609 Tommy John

Today's entry for my collection of 1967 Topps Autographed Baseball cards is one of the greatest left handed pitchers of all-time, but now is more known by the surgery that bears his name. The card is the Tommy John of the Chicago White Sox. Card number 609, which is the last card in the 1967 Topps Baseball set. As of July 8, 2011, I have accumulated 542 different autographs in the 1967 set.

Tommy John signed my card from a through the mail request that I sent him on June 18, 2011 to his home in North Carolina. He quickly autographed the card with a blue sharpie and returned it to me on June 22, 2011. Thank you, Mr. John, for the autograph and the speedy return.

Tommy John pitched 26 seasons in the Major Leagues from 1963 to 1989 and played for 6 different teams. His career started with the Cleveland Indians for two seasons, then he was traded to the White Sox, where he pitched until 1971 with modest success. After that season, Tommy was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1972 and found the National League more to his liking, winning 40 games versus 15 losses before hurting his left arm to a career threatening injury. He then tore a ligament in his left elbow; his career seemingly over, John became the first athlete to get ulnar collateral ligament reconstructive surgery. This is the elbow ligament that can be damaged by repeated throwing, and the surgery replaces it with a ligament taken from another part of the body - in John's case, his right forearm. The surgical procedure today is commonly called Tommy John surgery. Revolutionary at the time, the operation today is almost routine.

Tommy John missed the entire 1975 season while recovering from the surgery and injury, but returned in 1976 with the Dodgers. After the surgery, Tommy went on to win 164 games and pitched until he was 46 years old. He won 20 games in three out of four seasons from 1977 to 1980. After pitching for the Dodgers in 1978, Tommy signed with the New York Yankees for 4 seasons, California Angels for 3 seasons, the Oakland A's in 1985 and back again with the Yankees until he retired in 1989. 

Tommy John's career statistics include 288 wins versus 231 losses, a 3.34 earned run average, 2,245 strikeouts, 162 complete games and 46 shutouts. He was named to the All-Star teams 4 different seasons, won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1976 and appeared in 3 World Series, losing each while with the Dodgers in 1977 and 1978 and the Yankees in 1981.

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