THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
Perhaps it's not a story directly about sportsmanship, but this is a story about humanity, empathy, and heroic deeds, all of which are not mutually exclusive from sportsmanship. All of these are related to the same basic idea that we're all in this human race together, and it doesn't matter whether you are a competitor, an official, or a fan: life is a precious thing that requires us all to take a step back and appreciate one another. And what better time to reflect on this than during the holiday season?
Back in June, MLB umpire John Tumpane was working a series in Pittsburgh. "Tump," as he is known, had the plate for the game that night as the Pirates hosted the Tampa Bay Rays in an interleague matchup. During the day, he went for a run and for lunch when he noticed a woman on the wrong side of the Roberto Clemente bridge. This woman was considering suicide.
Through an act of courage with a touch of divine intervention, Tump was able to grasp onto this woman and prevent her from jumping to her death. He held her until the authorities arrived to take over and save this woman's life. The full account of this story is available on many news outlets (probably archived by now, but still readily available).
One of the most amazing moments of the account, however, was when this woman cried about how nobody would remember her or nobody would care about her. Tump replied by saying he would never forget her, even offering to take her to lunch to talk about life to prevent her from jumping. Talk about an understatement: how could anybody forget someone who was in such a perilous situation and was saved by the serendipity of someone being in the right place at the right time?
There are a ton of noted items from this story that go beyond just the account of what happened and the praise that Tump received for his heroism. First of all, this is a reminder that even MLB umpires are human and are on the same plane as everyone else. We have this concept that people of celebrity status somehow are demigods to us laymen, when, in reality, just because the stage is greater doesn't mean that these people aren't just the same as us. And that's not even to mention that MLB umpires usually don't want the notoriety that come with celebrity status; although the public may rally against them, umpires are happiest when nobody notices them.
Second, perhaps this story can remind us that life goes beyond our employment and entertainment. How many people in the stands that night would remember that the home plate umpire saved someone's life earlier that day? And if Tump missed a call that night, do you think that anyone on either team or in the stands would think twice before giving him hell for what they perceived to be a bad job? Or would common sense prevail and allow them to think, "Man, I think he missed that...but the guy saved someone's life today...we should cut him some slack..."
As an aside, and to put a little levity onto a serious situation, this is the best time a home plate umpire saved someone's life since Frank Drebin saved the Queen's life out in California...
All in all, kudos to Tump. I'm sure he deserves a cold beer and a hug.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.