Umpire saves life, then calls balls & strikes

Rays bystander also helps stop deadly leap off bridge

June 29th, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- Major League umpires are trained to respond instantaneously to just about everything. John Tumpane took that to a profoundly higher level Wednesday, reacting quickly on the Roberto Clemente Bridge to help save a woman's life.

Tumpane was walking to his hotel around 2:30 p.m. ET when he saw a woman climb over the railing of the bridge and, with the aid of others, held on to her long enough for police to arrive on the scene. The woman was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"In the right place at the right time," Tumpane said. "I just happened to be there. I think I've been a caring person in my life. I saw somebody in need, and it looked like a situation to obviously insert myself and help out."

Who is John Tumpane?

With his arms still shaking, Tumpane called his wife and informed her of the news. Then he went to work, serving as the home-plate umpire for the Pirates' 6-2 win over the Rays at PNC Park.

"Not too many times you call your wife and say you helped save somebody's life," he said. "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, in between innings and whatnot, just thinking of how things could have maybe been. Glad it was this way."

As the game progressed, word quickly spread throughout PNC Park of Tumpane's heroics.

"Just expresses that importance of being a good person on and off the field and baseball not being the most important thing," Pirates first baseman Josh Bell said. "Definitely thankful for him to take that initiative. It's a crazy world out there, a lot going on, but we're thankful to be able to play the game. Just hope that lady is safe now and she's in a better spot."

In his 16th year as a professional umpire and his seventh season in the Majors, the 34-year-old Tumpane's only previous day in the spotlight was calling Astros right-hander Mike Fiers' no-hitter at Minute Maid Park on Aug. 21, 2015.

He does not adhere to a strict daily routine. Traveling from city to city, he rarely eats lunch or works out at the same time before night games. He just so happened to be walking back from lunch at Jimmy John's when he saw the woman preparing to flip herself over the railing.

"My instinct was to just go right at her," Tumpane said Wednesday night. "I didn't want to scare her because I wasn't sure what was going on."

Tumpane asked the woman what she was doing, he said, and she responded that she wanted a "better look from this side of the rail."

"Oh no, why don't you come back over on this side?" Tumpane told her. "It's the same view over here."

"No, no, I'm good," she said.

"And I knew at that point she wasn't just taking a look at the other side," Tumpane said.

The woman told Tumpane to let her go, and he again asked her to step back over the railing. She refused, but by that point, Tumpane was able to get both arms around her. He mouthed to another man on the bridge, "Call 911."

A different man approached the scene to help hold one of the woman's arms. She kept struggling, pushing with her feet and at times dangling them over the Allegheny River below.

"I was like, 'Not on my watch, please,'" Tumpane said. "We were just hanging on."

Fortunately, another man hurried toward the rail and asked what he could do to help. Tumpane requested that he hold the woman's legs.

"That was a godsend," Tumpane said.

Tumpane didn't know it at the time, but that man would also be working at PNC Park on Wednesday night. It was Michael Weinman, the Rays' manager of multimedia production, making his first road trip in six seasons with the team. The two men formally met after the game.

Weinman was walking across the Clemente Bridge on his way to an interview at the ballpark when a bystander approached him and his colleague, screaming that a woman was attempting to commit suicide. Weinman fell flat on the sidewalk, pressed his face up to the metal mesh and squeezed his arms underneath the lower rail to grab the woman's ankles.

"Figured any way I could help do something," Weinman said later, both arms bruised by the railing. "People were trying to tell her, 'We love you. You're loved. People want you here. That's why we're all here.'"

Police arrived with an ambulance on the bridge, a helicopter overhead and boats in the river. A fire truck arrived, too. After officers handcuffed the woman's wrists to the rail, Weinman said, he helped them create a harness with a sheet. They were eventually able to get the woman over the railing.

After police safely secured her on the bridge, Tumpane approached her, got her name, and said a prayer for her.

"You'll just forget me after this," she told Tumpane, as he recalled.

"No," Tumpane replied, "I'll never forget you."

He went back to his hotel and continued to think about the woman. After about an hour, he returned to the ballpark and prepared for work.

"This was an unbelievable day, and I'm glad to say she can have another day with us," he said. "And I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time.

"I hope she's doing OK. I hope she has the family support that I know I would have in my family, and hopefully this was just a bad day with a good ending."

If you or someone you know might be suicidal, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.