But, he didn’t make it on the field. In fact, he didn’t even make the call at a ballpark.
On that day, Tumpane was in Pittsburgh, near PNC Park and walking to his hotel after lunch. He was to umpire behind the plate in a game between the Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays later that evening. Fate (or God) put him in position to help a woman who was having a bad day.
So bad, that she wanted that day to be her last on this earth.
As Tumpane, 34, in his seventh year as a MLB umpire, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and he saw a woman climb over the railing and stand on the ledge.
Tumpane asked the woman a question and quickly deduced that she wanted to kill herself by jumping off the bridge. He interlocked his arms with hers and held on for dear life. Many times the woman let her legs go, and Tumpane had to hold her against the bridge. “I was like, ‘Not on my watch, please,'” Tumpane said. “We were just hanging on.”
Other passers-by noticed the situation and Tumpane mouthed to them to call 911. Another person held the woman’s legs to the bridge. After a few minutes emergency responders arrived.
Tumpane talked calmly to the woman who said nobody cared about her. Tumpane calmly told her many people cared for her and loved her, pointing out all the people who were arriving to help her. While emergency workers moved in to secure the woman to the bridge, Tumpane kept talking to her and asking her to come back over the railing.
Workers finally were able to get the woman back over the railing and to safety. Tumpane was still with her and he paused to pray for the woman before she went to the hospital.
After a call to his wife, it was then on to the ballpark to work the game behind the plate. Umpires rotate around the bases and working the plate is by far the hardest position to work. “Kind of a lot of emotions, then it came time to focus. It’s also hard when you stand back behind home plate and look and you see the bridge in the distance, between innings and whatnot, just thinking of how things could have maybe been. Glad it was this way,” Tumpane said.
After word got out about him helping the woman, the Pirates made sure to honor him the following night.
Tumpane could work a record number of World Series, be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, and never make a wrong call on the field. But, helping save a life is a more important accomplishment that he (or any of us) could ever attain.
Great call, John Tumpane.
Tumpane is a native of the Chicago area. He was interviewed by The Spiegel and Parkins Show on WSCR 670 The Score.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Cover photo from USA Today.