Posted May 28, 2013

‘Super surgeon’ Dr. Lewis Yocum dies

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

Among the players Dr. Yocum worked with through the years was Stephen Strasburg. (Icon SMI)

Sad news out of Anaheim: On Tuesday, the Angels announced that Dr. Lewis Yocum, the team’s physician for the past 36 years and one of the sport’s most renowned orthopedic surgeons, passed away this weekend at the age of 66. He had been battling liver cancer. From the Angels’ official statement:

The Angels family and MLB have lost one of baseball’s finest gentlemen and truly outstanding professionals with the passing of Dr. Yocum.

His talents extended the careers of countless professional athletes, and he extended quality of life for so many others he advised, treated and operated on during his distinguished career. His contributions and impact in the medical field will long be remembered across the country. He represents the standard for others in his profession to attain.

After receiving his medical doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1973 and completing his internship and residency at Northwestern University, Yocum joined the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, where he was a protege of Dr. Frank Jobe, who performed the original ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery on Tommy John. “His work has not only followed in the footsteps of Jobe and Robert Kerlan, but he’s helped oversee the expansion of the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic and its influence,” wrote Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus in 2010, when he ranked Yocum as the sport’s number two “super surgeon” behind Dr. James Andrews.

Like Andrews, Yocum was one of the sport’s most trusted doctors, one whom players consulted for second opinions regardless of their team affiliation, and one who extended the careers of many. Yocum himself performed the Tommy John surgeries of the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman,  the Diamondbacks’ Daniel Hudson, the Twins’ Francisco Liriano, the Indians’ Vinnie Pestano, the Royals’ Joakim Soria, the Mets’ Billy Wagner and the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson, to name just a handful. He also operated on the Red Sox’ Dustin Pedroia (foot), Jacoby Ellsbury (ribs), the Angels’ Kendrys Morales (ankle) and the Cubs’ Ted Lilly (knee), among others. Earlier this month, he was in the news for providing the Phillies’ Roy Halladay with a second opinion on his shoulder prior to surgery.

Last fall, Yocum found himself in the middle of a controversy regarding the Nationals’ handling of Strasburg. At the time of the surgery in September 2010, Yocum had advised Washington to limit Strasburg’s innings the following season, just as they had for Zimmermann the year before. Yocum initially said last September that he wasn’t asked about whether to shut down Strasburg, but he soon clarified by saying that he had been in contact with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo throughout the season. “While the final decision was up to the team, as is standard practice, I was supportive of their decision and am comfortable that my medical advice was responsibly considered,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Angels communications director Eric Kay had this to say on Yocum via Twitter:

Among the former patients of Yocum’s weighing in via Twitter were Wilson, Pestano and LaTroy Hawkins:

4 comments
Tim Judge
Tim Judge

I am saddened to hear about Dr Yocum.  Dr Yocum was my doctor.  He rebuilt my shoulder and he rebuilt my ACL in my left knee.  Not only was he an amazing surgeon but he was a great guy.  Kerlan Jobe was a busy place in the 90s.  If I was there for a follow up and everything was fine, then me moved along pretty quickly.  But if I was having issues, the world stopped.  He would spend a lot of extra time.  I recall how he personally called a PT who was not following his protocol for therapy.  I was having a lot of lingering pain.  You better believe the PT followed his instructions to the letter from then on.  And guess what?  My pain decreased dramatically.  He really cared about his patients and providing great care.  He was proud of his skill and what he could do but all that played second fiddle to the patient.  My heart goes out to his family and friends.  He was a great guy.

Solomon
Solomon

That is sad news. I wonder if MLB would ever enshrine a surgeon into the Hall of Fame? They do consider people outside the actual players (announcers, writers, front office, etc), does anyone know if any long time trainers are in? Can certainly make a case for Dr. Yocum. How many superstar careers did he extend?

Bazelope
Bazelope

Sad news.  I worked with Dr. Yocum in the 90's.  A gentlemen and a gentle man.   I use to tell him, "Doc, you're too nice.  You don't realize that you're suppose to be arrogant and short with people".  And he'd laugh.   If the good die young then Lew should have passed years ago!  Today doc you are truly playing with the Angels.  RIP.... see you on the other side!  Beth, plow forward in his memory with the same gusto you always have!