White Sox remember Yocum fondly

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy was taken aback Tuesday afternoon when hearing about the death of renowned orthopedic surgeon Lewis Yocum.

The Los Angeles Angels' team doctor, who routinely operated on players not only in baseball but in all other major sports, died over the weekend at the age of 66. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer.

Yocum did not operate on Peavy, but consulted with him on both the strained tendon in his right ankle in 2009 and his latissimus dorsi injury in 2010.

Peavy considers Yocum’s impact on baseball to be as big as many of the great players who actually wore a uniform.

“A great man; a very gentle man in the way he talked,” Peavy said. “I think that’s what I will remember about him. He was very straightforward but very gentle in the way he went about talking to you because he understood the situation. He was very personal, I think, with each individual, no matter how big the name was or small the name was, how minute the injury was or how major the injury was.

“He never put himself on a pedestal as certainly he could have with the name and the clout that he had.”

A Chicago native, Yocum earned degrees from Western Illinois University as well as the University of Illinois. He also did his residency at Northwestern University.

Yocum gained vast knowledge working under Frank Jobe, the California doctor who performed the first Tommy John surgery and started the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in the Los Angeles area. The highest profile Tommy John surgery Yocum ended up doing was probably the one Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg underwent in 2010.

John Danks, who just made his return to the White Sox’s rotation last week, was examined briefly by Yocum before his shoulder surgery last summer.

“As a pitcher you hear about these surgeons and Dr. (James) Andrews is the prominent one, but Yocum and Dr. (Anthony) Romeo are right there behind him,” said Danks, whose shoulder surgery was performed by Romeo. “It’s sad to hear about Dr. Yocum. He was a relatively young man and our hearts go out to his family. He was the Angels' doctor and it’s a big loss out in California, but it’s a big loss across the game.”

Manager Robin Ventura said he was examined by Yocum during his playing days for a shoulder injury, but did not end up needing surgery.

“He’s meant a lot (to baseball),” Ventura said. “A lot of people remember Jobe for the things he’s done. (Yocum) was always somebody everybody went to for one thing or another. I don’t know how they do it for Hall of Fame stuff, but if you’re looking at people who affected the game, he affected the game.”