Dr. Lewis Yocum, Angels’ team orthopedist, dies.

Angels team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum has died, the team announced. Yocum had been battling cancer. He was 65.

Yocum was a protege of Dr. Frank Jobe, who invented the Tommy John surgery that has saved numerous players’ careers since it was first performed in 1974. The Angels named their training room after Yocum in May.

The Angels issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

The Angels family and Major League Baseball have lost one of baseball’s finest gentlemen and truly outstanding professionals with the passing of Dr. Lewis Yocum earlier this weekend.  His talents extended the careers of countless professional athletes, and provided extended quality of life for so many others he advised, treated and operated on during his distinguished career, including 36 years with the Angels.  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.  He was a loving husband to his wife Beth and proud father of children Donald and Laura.  MLB and the Angels organization sends its deepest sympathies to the Yocum family at this difficult time.

In June 2010, BaseballProspectus.com ranked Yocum as the number two orthopedic surgeon in baseball. Writes Will Carroll:

Yocum took over the mantle and the practice of Dr. Frank Jobe, who was baseball’s first super-surgeon. Yocum didn’t slow down. 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.

Yocum has been most associated with the Angels, the team for which he’s served as team doctor for years, but meanwhile he became the go-to guy for West Coast surgeries. One former GM jokingly said that he thought Yocum and Andrews had negotiated some sort of territorial agreement. “This side of the Mississippi is Andrews,” he laughed. “That side is Yocum.” For much of the ’90s it seemed that way, with almost no other surgeons getting the attention or the high-profile patients.

While Yocum has slowed down, like [Dr. James] Andrews, he’s a long way from retirement. With several high-profile doctors such as Dr. Orr Limpisvasti and Dr. Neal ElAttrache in place at Kerlan-Jobe, Yocum’s influence is assured for decades to come.

After Yocum operated on star Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg in 2010, Forbes.com wrote:

Yocum, who only gets about a fourth as much press as Andrews, appears to be gaining ground and receiving the lion’s share of big baseball surgery assignments. Among them, besides Strasburg’s $15 million elbow: AL MVP Dustin Pedroia’s foot, Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s ribs, Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann’s Tommy John, Angels’ slugger Kendry Morales’ leg repair, and Cubs starter Ted Lilly’s knee.

Does it really matter if you go to a celebrity orthopedist? I asked a friend who’s training to be an orthopedic surgeon with a sports medicine specialty and here’s what he said: “Yocum trained at Kerlan Jobe under Jobe (who developed the procedure). Andrews is also good. I don’t know how these guys choose. Almost every team doc can perform the procedure, but it seems like only a select few (Andrews, Yocum) do them.”

Dr. Yocum earned his medical doctorate at the University of Illinois, after which he completed both his internship and residency at Northwestern University in Chicago. He was a Sports Medicine Fellow at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic and an orthopaedic consultant to numerous dance companies.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.