Tommy John underwear advertisements have started popping up during Yankee games on the YES network. Upon investigation, it is clear that Tommy John underwear, available at tommyjohn.com, has no connection to the famous Yankee pitcher whose name has become synonymous with the groundbreaking elbow surgery that revived pitchers’ careers in the 1970s. Tommy John, who made a remarkable comeback after the surgery, won an impressive 164 games—an astonishingly close number to Sandy Koufax’s total career wins.
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The Story Behind Tommy John Underwear
In a candid interview with Sporting News three years ago, Tommy John revealed that he has no affiliation with the Tommy John underwear brand. He even contemplated legal action against the company for using his name without permission. However, he decided against it, primarily due to the exorbitant legal fees that his potential representation demanded — a staggering $250,000. During the interview, John mentioned that his girlfriend had contacted the company, offering to represent him as their spokesperson. Their response was regretfully that it was not within their budget.
Interestingly, the brainchild behind Tommy John underwear is a man named Thomas John Patterson. Yahoo Small Business News reported that Patterson, who had been laid off from his sales job during the Great Recession of 2009, designed his own undershirt while unemployed in San Diego. Dissatisfied with the fit of available undershirts, he went on to expand his offerings to include underwear. Patterson’s middle name, John, gave him the opportunity to claim the name Tommy John for his brand, potentially leading to an uncertain resolution if a lawsuit were to arise. Consequently, Tommy John, the Yankee pitcher, chose not to pursue legal action with a hefty $250,000 legal fee at stake.
It does seem audacious for Tommy John underwear commercials to be aired on the YES Network, as Yankee fans might mistakenly believe that the product is somehow connected to the former Yankee pitcher. It is worth noting that Tommy John underwear possesses the tommyjohn.com domain—an issue that merits an entirely separate discussion on the significance of baseball players owning their name’s URL.
Tommy John’s Hall of Fame Snub
Tommy John himself provided the aforementioned statistic about Sandy Koufax. With a remarkable career total of 288 wins, John expressed his dismay at not being inducted into the Hall of Fame. “I won 164 games after the surgery,” John explained, “which is just one win short of Sandy Koufax’s entire career. I’d have sportswriters tell me, ‘Yeah, but his wins were better than yours.’ And I said, ‘Better?’ I said, ‘A win’s a win.’ When Sandy pitched, did he strike out more guys? Yeah. Did he have fewer hits allowed? Yeah. But he won the ball game. That’s what he set out to do. I set out to win a ball game, and that’s what I was supposed to do.”
Tommy John’s Stint with the Yankees
Of the 164 victories that Tommy John achieved after his groundbreaking surgery, over 80 were earned during his time as a Yankee. The Yankees made an astute move by signing him as a free agent, and John didn’t disappoint, going 21-9 and 22-9 in his first two seasons with the team (1979 and 1980). In 1982, the Yankees traded him to the California Angels in exchange for the promising young pitcher Dennis Rasmussen. However, the Yankees later re-signed John at the age of 44, and he delivered a remarkable few years from 1986 to 1988. One of the highlights of this period was his 13-6 record with a 4.03 ERA in 1988, defying his age. John was known for his crafty off-speed pitching, which generated numerous ground ball outs.
Old Timer’s Game Controversy
In the aforementioned Sporting News interview, John disclosed that he is no longer invited to the Yankees’ Old Timer’s games. He revealed that the woman responsible for sending out invitations had become resentful towards him, resulting in his exclusion from the event.
The Revolutionary Tommy John Surgery
The legendary Dr. Frank Jobe performed the groundbreaking Tommy John surgery in 1974. This procedure marked the first-ever reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the elbow, utilizing Jobe’s innovative surgical technique. The surgery involves extracting a healthy tendon from the arm (or sometimes the leg) and replacing the damaged ligament. The healthy tendon is skillfully threaded through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow.
Considering all the circumstances mentioned—YES Network running Tommy John underwear commercials, the unauthorized use of the famous Yankee pitcher’s name by the underwear brand (despite the owner’s name being Tommy John Patterson), Tommy John’s exclusion from Old Timer’s games, and his absence from the Hall of Fame— it certainly appears that someone is taking advantage of Tommy John’s legacy.
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