Frank McCue: Sports doc to the stars
Ralph Sampson, Sissy Spacek, and "Nature Boy" Ric Flair have at least one thing in common: They share the same legendary doctor.
As well known as Dr. Frank McCue is, he's incredibly private, and he responds to a request to sit in the HotSeat with a suspicious, "What did I do?"
Well, the man whose name is on the front of the McCue Sports Center has done plenty.
A pioneer in sports medicine, he's treated thousands, both athletes and couch potatoes, during his 40-plus years as a doctor at UVA. After all, "a broken bone is the same whether it's a football player or grocery clerk," says McCue.
He remembers a time when there were only a handful of orthopedic surgeons in Virginia, when that sort of surgery often was performed by general surgeons. He was at med school studying to go into OB-GYN when he pretty much fell into the job of team doctor. "Nobody was interested in taking care of athletes," Doc McCue recalls.
He roomed with Buzzy Wilkinson, whom McCue calls "Virginia's first good basketball player," and started helping the players when he got out of the clinic around three in the afternoon.
"I was interested in sports, but I wasn't going to make it my life," he says. But upon returning to UVA after two years studying hand surgery, McCue stepped into taking care of UVA's athletes and those in Richmond, at VMI, William and Mary, Hampden-Sydney, and Randolph-Macon. "There was a need and not that many people around to do it," he notes.
The walls of one of his two offices in the McCue Center are lined with photographs of people whose names also are on buildings at UVA. For instance, he has a picture of mega-donor Carl Smith from the days when he played football at Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg, West Virginia, which McCue also attended for two years.
There's a photo of his grandfather, the first Frank McCue, a founder of Martha Jefferson Hospital, and his father, Frank McCue Jr., an engineer. But McCue III, who carries a quintessential Charlottesville name, actually grew up in Maxwelton, West Virginia, in Greenbrier County although the family made frequent trips to Charlottesville.
After a career treating all those athletes, what does McCue consider the most dangerous sport? He suggests that recreational sports like skydiving, bull riding, and skateboarding are all more dangerous than organized sports like football and basketball.
"Gymnastics are very dangerous," he adds.
Although he retired earlier this year, McCue still gets calls every day from coaches, players, and their families.
To those considering a career in sports medicine, McCue advises, "The first thing you do is get rid of that unlisted phone number," perhaps remembering many 1am calls from coaches concerned about their star players.
Clearly McCue could have made a bundle going pro. But he has no regrets that he stuck with UVA. Not only did he get to do what he likes, but he got his name on a building– without having to ante up millions of his own money.
What brought you here? Heritage
What's worst about living here? I don't think there's anything bad about living here.
Favorite hangout? McCue Center, University Hall, and Scott Stadium.
What would people be surprised to know about you? I think there's a heck of a lot they'd be surprised about, but I'm not going to tell everybody.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I think it's a little late for that.
What accomplishment are you proudest of? Making it for 73 years.
What do people find most annoying about you? Probably a variety of things. If I found something that was annoying people, I'd certainly try to change it.
Whom do you admire? Too many to list– teachers, professors, surgeons. Family would be at the top.
Favorite book? Anything by Louis Lamour
What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Surviving to make it
What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Nothing any more than in the 20th century
What do you drive? A 2002 Cadillac and two pickups
What's in your car CD player right now? Ray Price
What's your next journey? Charlotte
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Do you think I'm going to answer that?
What do you regret? Nothing I can think of
Favorite comfort food? Cheeseburger deluxe from Riverside
What's always in your refrigerator? Dr. Pepper and chicken salad
Must-see TV? Law and Order
Favorite cartoon? Looney Tunes
Describe a perfect day. Waking up in the morning and seeing I made it through the night
Walter Mitty fantasy? None
Who'd play you in the movie? Larry, Moe, or Curly
Most embarrassing moment? I can't zero in on one.
Best advice you ever got? Shut up and keep going.
Frank McCue III
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO