38 years ago today, a quarterback named “Thomas Brady” had elbow surgery

You learn something new every day. Even if it sometimes takes 38 years, to the day.

As noted by the @QuirkyResearch account on Twitter, on March 3, 1983, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw underwent “minor” elbow surgery in his home town of Shreveport, Louisiana to address “muscle tears in the elbow of his throwing arm.” To ensure privacy in his hometown, he used an alias.

Thomas Brady.

Here’s the link to a UPI archive confirming that the newsprint from @QuirkyResearch isn’t fake.

“Many times, we have to admit people under an assumed name or under no name to keep the press and the fans away,” hospital administrator Charles Boyd said at the time.

Dr. William Burdick, who performed the operation, described Bradshaw’s condition as “the same thing as tennis elbow,” but on the inside of the joint not the outside. “He should be fine,” Burdick said. A Steelers spokesman likewise called it a “relatively minor thing,” that that such minor surgery is rarely publicized in the offseason.

It wasn’t minor. Bradshaw didn’t play until Week 15, against the Jets. He threw eight passes that day, completing five and generating two touchdowns before exiting the game for good.

Along the way, by the way, the Steelers had a chance to select Bradshaw’s replacement in the 1983 draft. With the 21st pick, the Steelers opted to take defensive tackle Gabe Rivera and to pass on a passer named Dan Marino. As Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy has explained it, the Steelers didn’t take Marino in part because they didn’t want to have an awkward transition from Bradshaw to Marino.

In hindsight, the Steelers surely wish they’d taken Marino, a Pittsburgh native who played college football at Pitt. Consider this excerpt from an article by Jill Lieber in the December 19, 1983 issue of Sports Illustrated regarding Bradshaw’s surgery and its aftermath: “He’d strained his elbow severely in the ’82 training camp and got through last season on weekly cortisone shots. Even before last season, a Shreveport orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Bill Bundrick, had diagnosed the ailment as ‘reverse tennis elbow’ — microtears of the flexor pronator muscle, which is located over the inside of the elbow — and on March 3 of this year he removed the damaged tissue and reattached the muscle to the humerus near the elbow. Bradshaw was told not to throw until July. But by Pittsburgh’s May minicamp Bradshaw was feeling like his old self. He began throwing and tore more tissue in his elbow, which ballooned to the size of a softball. Bundrick told Bradshaw not to even think of playing before September. ‘I felt like scolding him,’ the doctor says. ‘But he can’t help it. He’s Terry Bradshaw.’”

Yes, he’s Terry Bradshaw. Apparently, he thought he was Thomas Brady.