Dr. Lewis Yocum, renowned sports orthopedist who performed surgeries on many of the biggest names in baseball, has passed away at the age of 65 after a year-long battle with liver cancer.
Yocum did the Tommy John surgeries for many Nationals players including Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Lucas Giolito, and Sammy Solis. He also advised Danny Espinosa during his recovery this offseason from a torn rotator cuff.
Zimmermann spoke to reporters on Tuesday just minutes after learning of the news. He expressed gratitude for Yocum’s work in reconstructing his elbow in 2009.
“He saved my career,” Zimmermann said. “He was a great guy and obviously saved my career and I wouldn’t be here without him.”
Zimmermann said he sent Yocum a text message three days before hearing he had passed. Zimmermann had learned he was in the hospital and not doing well.
“I sent him a text and from what I heard his wife was reading him all the texts and everything. It was just a ‘get well’ text and I didn’t really know how bad it was. I found out about ten minutes ago.”
Davey Johnson, a lifer in the game of baseball, has seen the advancement of medicine over the last few decades and was appreciative for Yocum’s role.
“He’s a legend,” Johnson said. “He’s been unbelievable with the Tommy John surgery, he’s done a bunch of our guys.”
“Doctors are such a big part… they are just as a part of the game as the players, they keep us on the field.”
Espinosa is thankful for what Yocum did with his shoulder and said his brother was operated on twice by him.
“Everyone always felt more comfortable if they went to Dr. Yocum,” Espinosa said. “It’s definitely sad and a big loss in the baseball world.”
Yocum served as the team physician for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The team announced his passing on Tuesday afternoon.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig released a statement on Yocum's contributions to the game of baseball:
“Dr. Lewis Yocum was a giant in the field of sports medicine. He was an invaluable resource to not only the Angels franchise but players throughout all of Major League Baseball, team physicians and the members of the Professional Baseball Athletics Trainers Society. All of our clubs relied upon Dr. Yocum’s trusted opinion and judgment. 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. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Beth, their children, their friends and his many admirers.”