Tommy John: The Most Famous Baseball Player Not In The Hall Of Fame

Video Duration:
2:42

Tommy John is the most googled name in baseball, and yet he's not in the Hall of Fame. White Sox writer Brett Ballantini breaks down why Tommy John should be remembered for more than just the surgery named after him.

Read full video transcript below: 

Kaitlin O'Toole: He played in Major League Baseball for 26 seasons, has a surgery named after him, and today is his birthday. Sports Illustrated is taking a look at Tommy John. Joining me now is White Sox maven Brett Ballantini. Brett, when we talk about famous MLB players, we think of Babe Ruth, Mike Trout, Derek Jeter. But actually, the most googled baseball player in the world is Tommy John. So why is it that the most famous player is not a Hall of Famer?

Brett Ballantini: It's a great point. The article that's on our site today does have a cheeky side to it, obviously, because clearly Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, there are many other better baseball players in history, but because of the surgery and because he wasn't a bad baseball player himself, Tommy John would be considered the most famous and he certainly is the most famous baseball player who's actually not in the Hall of Fame. This is a guy, you look at Fangraphs, has a 79.1 WAR. Baseball Reference gives him well past 60. The grumps at Baseball Prospectus, you average them all, he's nearly a 60 WAR player for his career. This is a guy who, irrespective of any surgery named after him, is a guy whose baseball career alone simply says he's a Hall of Famer.

Kaitlin O'Toole: So let's talk about that, though. You mentioned the surgery, I mentioned the surgery. We all know Tommy John from his surgery, but the bulk of his career happened after that. It was that he had so much success and was able to play all of this time and do so well post-surgery.

Brett Ballantini: Experimental surgery at the time, of course, he was the first success. Ended up playing, as you had mentioned, 26 years in the game. 164 wins, post surgery. This a guy that had enormous value and managed to have some longevity in his career, really with a surgery that no one ever had. Back in the old days, obviously, you just pitched through a sore arm and then you went out and sold insurance when you're done. You pitched until you couldn't pitch any longer. Tommy John had enough courage, along with obviously Dr. Frank Jobe who did the surgery, and those two are always going to be connected. Those two both deserve to be enshrined in Cooperstown, for the fact that there's this experimental surgery that now is so commonplace. 85% of games today feature at least one pitcher with Tommy John surgery. And for the fact that he won an enormous number of games, contributed to winning seasons, World Series. He's got a legitimate case, both as a pioneer with surgery and just simply as a baseball player.