Who Is Tommy John and Why Are So Many Having His Surgery?

Dr. Frank Jobe never played an inning of professional baseball. Nevertheless, his effect on the game is enormous. The Baseball Hall of Fame honored him in 2013 at its annual induction ceremonies. Dr. Jobe performed ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction surgery on Major-League pitcher Tommy John’s elbow in 1974. The procedure re-attaches the two arm bones at the elbow that have come apart from overuse. As the baseball season winds down and you get ready for playoff and World Series excitement, there is a one-in-three chance the pitcher you’re rooting for or against has undergone Tommy John surgery.

Tommy John had played eleven seasons with the White Sox and the Dodgers. After surgery, he was named Comeback Player of the Year in 1976. He played fifteen more years with the Dodgers and Yankees, was named to the All-Star team three more times and won 288 games. The surgery that has resurrected many a pitcher’s career became known by his name.

Major-League pitchers throw fewer innings than in John’s day, have longer rests between starts and rarely pitch a complete nine-inning game. It’s not likely we’ll ever again see a pitcher reach benchmark numbers of 300 strikeouts or 300 innings pitched in a season or record 300 – or 288 – wins in a career. Yet Tommy John’s eponymous surgery is common. Big leaguers and amateurs alike proudly show their scars on their pitching arms. The human arm is not designed for throwing baseballs overhand, especially breaking balls.

Tommy John as a Dodger

These days, more than half of the surgeries are performed on athletes younger than nineteen years. Youth sports are big business and kids are pressured to commit to one sport and play it year-round to the exclusion of others. The number of UCL surgeries on young elbows has increased every year for the past two decades. The reason: too many curve balls thrown too young with little, if any, rest between seasons.

And what does Tommy John say about this?

“What does bother me is that my name is now attached to something that affects more children than pro athletes. I was in my 30s and playing major league ball for nearly a dozen years before needing the operation. It’s hard seeing so many kids being pushed the way they are today, and getting hurt as a result.”

Columbia River Crossing

IKEA opened a big, shiny new store in Portland a couple years ago. It anchors the Cascade Station shopping center that also includes Target, Nordstrom Rack and Home Goods among its retail businesses. Cascade Station sits near Portland International Airport, strategically positioned at the south end of the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge that connects east Portland with Vancouver, Washington. The shopping destination’s parking lot is filled with autos displaying Washington license plates. The location is strategic because shoppers pay a 8.4% sales tax in Vancouver compared to the Oregon sales tax rate… oh, there is no Oregon sales tax.

Property taxes in Clark County (Vancouver) Washington are lower than Multnomah County (Portland) Oregon. The good-paying jobs, however, are on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, in Portland. Every workday Vancouver commuters clog I-5 and I-205 and their respective bridges across the Columbia. The city of Portland is infested with Washington drivers and their endearing motoring habits.

Continue reading Columbia River Crossing

Potato Scraps

I first saw them on a menu at a McMenamins outpost somewhere in Portland. I thought, Wow, just like Mom used to make heat up in the oven. And they were offered with the option of ranch dressing, not just ketchup. How sophisticated. “Tater Tots,” with capital “T”s, a registered trademark, has become almost a generic term, like “kleenex” or “coke.” Now they’re everywhere. Food writers in cities around the country write up their “10 Best Tots” lists. It’s now hip to eat oldsters’ childhood memories.

Like me, Tater Tots were born in Oregon. Ore-Ida foods, a processor of frozen corn and potatoes in eastern Oregon, hated sending the potato detritus resulting from slicing French fries out for livestock feed. They came up with the idea of chopping the scraps, mixing in a little flour and seasoning, then pushing the mush through an extruder and cutting into bite-sized pieces. Deep fried, then frozen, they arrived in grocery store freezers in 1956.

Tater Tots was a poor seller. Ore-Ida implemented the marketing strategy later employed by Starbucks and others. They raised the price. Consumers decided if they cost that much, they must be good. Sales took off.

H. J. Heinz purchased Ore-Ida in 1965. Americans ate nearly 4 billion of the potato gems in 2017; that’s 70 million pounds.

Can You Hear Me Now?

The Verizon guy in the TV commercials is so friendly and down to earth, we know that his and the company’s mission is to provide their customers with the best plans at the most reasonable costs. Just ask firefighters battling the blazes in California. Wireless communications are vital to provide and update information, manpower deployment and battle strategies. Imagine their surprise when service suddenly slowed to 1/200th of the normal speed. “It essentially rendered those very routine communications almost useless or completely ineffective,” said the Santa Clara County Fire Department captain whose team had been deployed to Lake and Mendocino counties in northern California.

Verizon Wireless had a simple explanation. The department had purchased an “unlimited” data plan, but when a certain usage threshold is reached, transmission speed slows precipitously. Verizon also had a simple solution: upgrade the plan at twice the cost.

Verizon said their practice is to remove data speed limits for emergency responders in emergency situations and they are “reviewing the situation” and “will fix any issues going forward.” They also said the speed restrictions had nothing to do with the Federal Communications Commission’s termination of net neutrality regulations that, among other things, had prevented Internet service providers from charging more for speeding up delivery of certain content. The three-Republican two-Democrat FCC, led by Trump appointee Ajit Pai, voted 3-2 to abolish the regulations.

Making America Great Again.