Lewis Yocum, the longtime team orthopedist for the Los Angeles Angels and one of the top sports surgeons in the world, died over the weekend after quietly battling liver cancer, the club announced Tuesday. Yocum was 65.
A native of Chicago, Lewis Yocum earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University in 1969 and a doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1973.
After completing his internship and residency at Northwestern University, he joined the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, where he was a protege of Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered elbow ligament replacement surgery, popularly known as Tommy John surgery, in 1974.
Yocum, Jobe and James Andrews became the key surgeons for big leaguers.
“The Angels family and MLB have lost one of baseball’s finest gentlemen and truly outstanding professionals with the passing of Dr. Yocum,” the team said in a statement. “Dr. Yocum’s impact in the medical field will long be remembered across the country. The list of careers he extended is endless.”
Following Yocum’s death, dozens of MLB athletes and coaches took to the web to praise the former surgeon and offer condolences to his family.
“Really saddened by the passing of Dr. Yocum,” Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson tweeted. “He was the sole reason a lot of pitchers and I had a chance at a career in baseball.”
Wilson, who signed a five-year, $78 million contract after the 2011 season, had Tommy John surgery in 2003.
“He obviously saved my career,” said Washington Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, another of Yocum’s patients. “He saved a lot of guys’ careers. He’s fixed a lot of guys. He did a lot for the game of baseball… I wouldn’t be here without him.”
Five-time All-Star outfielder wrote:
Dr. Yocum was a legend & will be missed. Thoughts & prayers for his family today
— Josh Hamilton (@thejoshhamilton) May 29, 2013
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig called Yocum “a giant in the field of sports medicine.”
“All of our clubs relied upon Dr. Yocum’s trusted opinion and judgment,” Selig said in a statement. “Throughout the last 36 years, the lives and careers of countless players benefited from his pioneering expertise, and he made our game on the field better as a result.”
Yocum is survived by his wife, Beth; son Donald; and daughter Laura.