Daily Distractions: Remembering Dr. Lewis Yocum.

Lewis YocumDr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels team physician who died Saturday, worked at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic for more than 30 years. Yocum didn’t invent Tommy John surgery – Frank Jobe did – but he made it faster.

“Some of the little refinements that we do, he helped develop them,” Jobe said. “For example, he’d drill the holes. At he time it took a while to get the holes just right took to get the lead sutures through those holes, he was able to find a way of doing that real slick, so that cut about 15 minutes off the operation time.”

And yet, when I asked Jobe to identify Yocum’s legacy, he went with something completely different. Click the link above to see what he said.

I talked to a lot of people about Dr. Yocum yesterday and the vast majority of what they said didn’t fit in my story for the newspaper. So here’s the rest, in bullet-point form for a Wednesday afternoon:

• Here’s how Angels manager Mike Scioscia identified Yocum’s legacy: “Dr. Yocum was just an incredible physician, but even more importantly he was a better human being. I think that his skills he had as a doctor will pale in comparison to the person he was. Anyone who was around Dr. Yocum understood his compassion, his drive to help anybody he was around, whether it was an athlete or a non-athlete, to get well and to get back to doing what they wanted to do. It didn’t matter if you were a weekend golfer or a superstar pitcher, Dr. Yocum had the same feeling and compassion for you, and it’s what made him a special person.”

Jered Weaver isn’t always the most talkative guy on the team, but Tuesday he couldn’t say enough about Yocum. “It was just a privilege to talk to him and be around someone like that. He was just a great man, a pleasure to be around. I loved having conversations with him.” On his medical dealings with Yocum, Weaver said “he always had the right answer. It was always what was in your best interests. If he didn’t recommend it, he would say it. He was always truthful and honest about the little nagging injuries that go along with trying to get through the course of the season.”

• Agent Scott Boras, who represents Weaver and Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg (who went to Yocum for Tommy John surgery in 2010), has only written on his Twitter account twice. The first was last November, on the occasion of Marvin Miller’s death. The second time was Tuesday. “Dr. Yocum was a caring genius who had a profound impact on the game and its players. His plaque in the hall awaits,” Boras wrote.

• I spoke to another player agent – not a player, not a patient – who said that Yocum was always available to him on the phone, even at odd hours of the night.

Sean Burnett didn’t get to know Yocum well, since this is his first year with the team. But he’s spent almost as much time battling injuries this season as anyone, and came away with a distinct impression of Yocum. “You felt like you were getting the best advice from one of the best doctors in the world.” Burnett said that Yocum was reviewing MRIs of his left elbow as recently as a couple weeks ago.

• Like anyone who’s great at their job, Yocum loved performing surgery. Rick Smith, the Angels’ assistant athletic trainer who worked alongside Yocum more than three decades, said “I asked him repeatedly what his favorite part of being a doctor was. He said, ‘Smitty, I’m a surgeon. I love to do surgery. I love to fix things.’ He shined in the operating room. He would get a special sparkle in his eye when he talked about surgery.”

• One more from Smith: “He would tell athletes that they couldn’t (play) anymore because his shoulder was too trashed. (Yocum would say) ‘I want you to be able to to play catch with your kids when you’re out of this game’ … He meant it. I heard him say that many, many times. It came from the heart.”

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the 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.