visiting�manager's office at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium in
Newark is an insult to visiting manager's offices everywhere. There is no door.
A stray jockstrap lies on the floor. Ashlee Simpson blares on the speakers
overhead. Unfazed by his surroundings, the first-year Bridgeport Bluefish
manager fills out his lineup card and lets out a whew! Five games into the
season, he's relieved just to have remembered his players' names. "Now
comes the hard part--their numbers," he says.
Such is life in
the Atlantic League, an eight-team independent outfit full of former major
league players and coaches dreaming of one more shot at the bigs. Bridgeport's
manager isn't among them. He's already had his second chance--and made his
Depending on your
age and sense of baseball history, Tommy John is either the lefty who in 26
seasons won 288 games with six teams or shorthand for one of the best-known
surgical procedures in sports. On Sept.�25, 1974, the 31-year-old John
became the first person to undergo an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.
In the procedure, developed by Dr.�Frank Jobe, a tendon in John's right
forearm was removed and used to replace the torn ligament in his left elbow.
Jobe rated John's chances of resuming his career at "1 in 100," but
after rehabbing throughout '75, John went 90-45 with the Dodgers and the
Yankees over the next five years and made three All-Star teams. More
remarkably, from his return in '76 until retirement in '89, John never missed a
scheduled start due to arm problems.
After a string of
coaching and broadcasting jobs,� John joined the Bluefish in December 2006.
His legacy will always be a tug-of-war between the landmark surgery (hundreds
of big leaguers, including Mariano Rivera and John Smoltz, have had it) and a
near Hall of Fame career (excluding active players, he's the winningest pitcher
without a plaque in Cooperstown). John says he's happy these days to be known
more for his elbow than for his W's. Sporting an eight-inch scar on the inside
of his left arm, he still throws batting practice before every game,
painlessly. "He should," says his wife, Sally. "His arm is just 32