Former MLB pitcher Tommy John has contracted COVID-19, but is minimizing the threat of the virus from a hospital bed in California.
The 77-year-old left-hander who played 26 seasons for six teams, including the Yankees, told The Daily Beast Tuesday he had no symptoms of the deadly bug despite being on oxygen at a hospital near his home in Indio, California.
“I’d leave right now if they’d let me walk out,” John said.
But John — who went on to pitch for 14 seasons after having elbow ligament replacement surgery in 1974 — accused a reporter of “making a mountain of a molehill” when being confronted with details provided by his longtime girlfriend Cheryl Zeldin, who has not been able to see him since late December.
Zeldin said she and John were in Nashville when the four-time All-Star lost motor control and had trouble getting out of a car when returning to a hotel for dinner. Several people had to help the Indiana native out of a plane when the couple returned to California the following day, Zeldin told The Daily Beast.
One day later, John was rushed to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Dec. 13. He’s since been hospitalized on two other occasions, including a third time in late December, Zeldin said.
John admitted he was currently on oxygen when told of Zeldin’s account, claiming he held that detail back because he didn’t think the treatment was necessary.
“These people here would put you on anything!” John said during a phone interview he cut short by hanging up, according to the report.
John did confirm being hospitalized several times, although he said he wasn’t sure his symptoms were coronavirus-related. His downplayed take on the virus, meanwhile, is not a far cry from that of his eldest son, Tommy John III, who works as a chiropractor in San Diego and claims the virus simply does not exist.
“Morning kids,” John III wrote on Twitter in October. “Up and at em. Time to urge the world to change and save itself. This ends when we say no … Our immune systems end ‘pandemics.’ This is not a pandemic. It’s worse.”
The post included links to several virus hoax websites.
“Stop wearing your mask,” the post continued.
As recently as Dec. 30, some two weeks after his father was initially hospitalized, John III claimed the virus was just an “idea” that “does not exist from any virus,” The Daily Beast reported.
“You do not have Covid 19,” he wrote. “Never did. Stop giving it permission and power by acting like it’s a real thing.”
John III did not return multiple messages seeking additional comment, according to the report.
Tommy John, meanwhile, said he wasn’t going to get inoculated against the virus, claiming not to be a “vaccine type person.”
“The last time I was vaccinated was when I was like 8 years old,” he told the website. “Does that make me bad?”
But Zeldin, who was also diagnosed with the virus, insisted that John would ultimately get vaccinated and would keep it from his son.
“You gotta be s–tting me,” the former hurler replied when asked if he’s nervous about his diagnosis. “You’re either going to live or you’re going to die.”