He felt a pop and thought his baseball career was over
Falmouth orthopedic surgeon Joseph Chase, MD, worked with the likes of Red Sox legends Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling when he was a team physician during the World Series-winning year of 2004.
But the biggest miracle of his work with baseball players came later.
The year was 2009 and pitcher Steve Delabar was in his sixth season of low-level minor-league ball. He was playing for the Brockton Rox after recovering from the elbow reconstruction known as Tommy John surgery.
Dr. Chase, who was then working as a team physician for the Rox, was watching Delabar pitch one night.
“He had a fastball that he threw at 88 or 89 miles per hour,” he said. “Then I saw him shaking his arm and his next pitch was 40 miles per hour.”
Everyone knew it was bad.
“I felt a huge pop. I said, that’s it right there,” Delabar told the HBO program “Real Sports.” “I went in the dugout and it seemed like there was alien coming out of my arm.”
The pitcher had suffered a compound fracture, and fixing it wasn’t simple.
“It was an awful injury,” said Dr. Chase. “I repaired the elbow using a steel plate and nine screws. Everyone assumed his baseball career was done.”
But, soon, Delabar – and baseball – would learn that Dr. Chase’s surgery had done more than patch up a shattered elbow.
Delabar had left the Rox and was working as a substitute teacher and assistant baseball coach at his old high school in Kentucky. As part of his coaching, he showed the students how to do arm strengthening exercises. He worked along with them to build up his own strength.
Soon, he found his big league-caliber arm was back. In 2011, he started throwing a fastball 92 to 97 miles per hour, faster than he ever had before Dr. Chase’s surgery.
“He got a call from the Seattle Mariners,” said Dr. Chase. “He went from Single A ball to Triple A ball by September and pitched in the majors at the end of the season.”
Delabar got his first major-league win that September, beating the Yankees.
In 2012, he became the first pitcher in MLB history to record four strikeouts in an extra inning. In 2013, he was selected to the MLB All-Star Game.
Now 32, Delabar saw limited action with the Toronto Blue Jays the last two seasons. On April 2 he signed a minor-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds.