Tommy John Is Not Related to Tommy John Underwear

Tommy John underwear commercials have been appearing on Yankee games on YES network. A quick lookup finds that Tommy John underwear — tommyjohn.com — has no relation to the famed Yankee pitcher, whose name has become synonymous with the surgery to repair the elbow that used to end a pitcher’s career until Tommy John’s successful surgery and comeback in the 1970’s. Tommy John won 164 games after the surgery — one less win than Sandy Koufax had in his entire career.

Tommy John Underwear

In a Sporting News interview 3 years ago, Tommy John said he has no relation to Tommy John underwear and considered suing them for use of his name, but didn’t want to pay the lawyers he approached for representation, $250,000. He also says in the interview that “my girlfriend called the company and said she was representing me and that they should think about using me as a spokesperson. Their reply was they don’t have it in their budget.”

Tommy John underwear is owned by a fellow named Thomas John Patterson who, according to Yahoo Small Business News, was laid off from his sales job during the Great Recession of 2009, and designed his own undershirt while unemployed in San Diego because he didn’t like the fit of the ones he had been wearing. He later added underwear to the company’s offerings.

The fact that Tom Patterson’s middle name is John gives him claim to the name Tommy John too — and so the lawsuit might have an uncertain ending — thus why Tommy John the Yankee pitcher did not pursue with a $250,000 legal fee as an entry point.

That being said, it seems a little ballsy for Tommy John underwear commercials to be run on YES Network, where Yankee fans might buy the product thinking it did have relation to the former Yankee pitcher. Tommy John underwear owns the tommyjohn.com url — a topic of another conversation (the importance of baseball players owning their name url).

Tommy John’s ‘Not’ Hall of Fame Career

That stat about Sandy Koufax above comes from Tommy John himself, who finished with 288 career wins but is not in the Hall of Fame, to his chagrin.  “I won 164 games after surgery,” John said in the interview with Sporting News. “That was one less than Sandy Koufax won in his entire career. Entire career. I’d have sportswriters tell me, ‘Yeah, but his wins were better than yours.’ And I said, ‘Better?’ I said, ‘A win’s a win.’ When Sandy (pitched), did he strike out more guys? Yeah. Did he have less hits? Yeah. But he won the ball game. That’s what he set out to do. I set out to win a ball game, and that’s what I was supposed to do.”

Tommy John as a Yankee

Over 80 of those post-surgery 164 wins came with the Yankees. Tommy John was one of the best free agent pitchers the Yankees ever signed — going 21-9 and 22-9 his first two years with the Yanks — in 1979 and 1980 (the 103-win team that lost to KC in the playoffs). In 1982 the Yankees traded John to the California Angels for a young Dennis Rasmussen. The Yankees would resign John later in his career — at the age of 44 — for a resurgent set of years he had with them from 1986-1988 — the highlight being the 13-6 4.03 he laid down in 1988 at age 44. John was a wiley off-speed pitcher who got lots of ground ball outs.

Yankees Not Inviting John to Old Timer’s Games

In the Sporting News interview, John mentioned the Yankees no longer invite him to Old Timer’s games anymore because ‘the woman responsible for sending out invitations “got pissed at Tommy John and is not going to invite me back.”‘

Tommy John Surgery

Dr. Frank Jobe was the doctor who performed Tommy John’s landmark surgery in 1974 — the first reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow (UCL) using a revolutionary procedure he had devised. The surgical procedure is one in which a healthy tendon is extracted from an arm (or sometimes a leg) and used to replace an arm’s torn ligament. The healthy tendon is threaded through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow.

The Math

So doing the math:

  • (YES Network is running Tommy John underwear commercials) +
  • (Tommy John underwear are using the name of the famous Yankee pitcher without his authority or approval albiet the owner of Tommy John’s underwear is named Tommy John Patterson) +
  • (the Yankees do not invite Tommy John to Old Timer’s games anymore) +
  • (Tommy John has 288 career wins but is not in the Hall of Fame)
  • = Tommy John (the former Yankee pitcher) is getting screwed by somebody.

If you have an opinion on this please post.

1 Comment

  1. TJ is taking it in the ‘shorts’ twice, maybe 3 times. The owners knew exactly what they were doing using his name. Legal? Probably. Moral/ ethical? Nope. I’m guessing they have no mirrors in their house, that way they don’t have to face themselves every day. Their prices are obnoxious, but if people are stupid enough to buy, they are smart enough to capitalize. Nuff said….

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