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steve palermo, 1990 MLB umpires assoc #26, umpire

Player: Palermo, Steve

Card: 1990 Major League Umpires Assoc. #26

Position: Umpire

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July 6, 1991 at Arlington Stadium would turn out to be Palermo's last game umpired. The Rangers beat the Angels, 4-3, and after the game Palermo stopped by to have dinner at Corky Campisi’s restaurant before returning to the Hyatt. A couple of the waitresses left to go home, and then another restaurant employee shouted out that they’d run into trouble. They were being beaten to the ground in a purse-snatching. Palermo and Terrence Mann ran outside and ended up chasing and catching one of the thieves, but there was a fourth man in a getaway car who circled back and fired five shots, hitting both Mann and Palermo.

The first three bullets hit T-Mann – one in the throat that entered and exited from right side to left side. The second one hit him in the bicep of his right arm and then the third one hit him in his thigh. The fourth bullet missed all of us and it hit a brick wall behind us – Mrs. Baird’s Bakery. The fifth one hit me at belt level and took a path through my body, hit my left kidney and bounced off the kidney, hit the abdomen, and then went straight down and struck my spinal cord and then went out my left side. It hit what they call the cauda equine, the peripheral nerves that come out the bottom of your spinal cord that enervate your muscles in your lower extremities. I was paralyzed immediately.” The police caught the shooter, who was sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Stephen Michael Palermo (October 9, 1949 – May 14, 2017) was an umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the American League from 1977 to 1991. He was born on October 9, 1949, in Worcester, Massachusetts. While in school, he worked as a baseball umpire. Barney Deary, who headed Major League Baseball's Umpire Development Program, discovered Steve working a Little League all-star game. As a result, Steve entered the league's development program where he trained for five years.

His first game as an umpire was the Toronto Blue Jays first ever game on April 7, 1977, at Exhibition Stadium. Palermo was the third base umpire for that game. His career as an umpire included the 1983 World Series, three American League Championship Series (1980, 1982, and 1989), the 1981 American League Division Series and the 1986 All-Star Game. In August 1991, The Sporting News ranked Palermo "Number 1" among American League umpires for overall performance.

Steve was one of the first American League umpires to never use the outside chest protector. His career highlights also include umpiring two of the most famous games in New York Yankees history. In 1978, he worked the Yankees' one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park to determine the AL's Eastern Division winner. Palermo, serving as the third base umpire, signaled "fair ball" when Bucky Dent hit the game-changing home run. On July 4, 1983, he worked behind the plate for Dave Righetti's no-hitter against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

Palermo provided the umpire's voice in Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, a 1994 Super NES baseball video game.

Palermo was frequently the target of fiery Baltimore Orioles' manager Earl Weaver's wrath. Jim Palmer, Hall of Fame Oriole pitcher, remembered that Weaver "second-, third-, and fourth-guessed every call Steve Palermo ever made in his whole career, which, by the law of averages seems a little harsh, since he had a one out of two chance on every pitch."

After the 1991 shooting, Palermo's umpiring career ended, and doctors told Steve and his wife, Debbie, that he would probably never walk again. Through rehabilitation and determination, Palermo managed to recover, walking with the use of one small leg brace and a cane. He subsequently threw the ceremonial first pitch in Game 1 of the 1991 World Series, only three months after suffering his injury.

Bud Selig hired Palermo as a special assistant in 1994 and, in 2000, elevated him as a supervisor of umpiring for the league. From 1995 to 1997, Palermo worked part-time as an analyst for Yankees games on MSG Network.

In 1994, he won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Palermo also served as honorary commissioner for the Tee Ball game at the White House on July 24, 2005, in which children with physical disabilities participated; the game was part of President George W. Bush's White House Tee Ball Initiative. Palermo died on May 14, 2017, in Overland Park, Kansas at the age of 67, following a battle with lung cancer.

(excerpted from SABR and Wikipedia)


Image from SABR
TSN Umpire Card courtesy of Retrosheet


Listen to Larry Baldassaro’s interview with Steve here – or view the Next Stop on the Baseball Italian Style Tour

Palermo is part of the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame Tour – Go to the Next Stop


Steve is also part of the Umpires Tour – Go to the Next Stop

See Steve’s baseball cards at TCDB

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