Prior to last night’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays, umpire John Tumpane was on his way to the stadium.
PNC Park is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the major leagues, with a skyline view across the outfield beyond the river, and the centerpiece of that backdrop is the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which connects access to the stadium with downtown Pittsburgh.
Tumpane was crossing this bridge in the afternoon leading up to the first pitch, where he would be calling balls and strikes, when he noticed a woman had crossed the railing and was on the brink of jumping into the river below. Tumpane’s response was almost immediate as he raced to the woman and, after encouraging her not to jump, held on to her as she tried to break his grip.
Eventually other passersby (including a Rays employee) and emergency personnel would assist in bring the woman over the railing, where she was greeted by paramedics who transported her to a local hospital.
This entire exchange is incredible, and we encourage you to read the great reporting already done by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on this story, as they too had reporters eventually passing by. Here’s an excerpt:
“I just wanted to get a better look of the city from this side,” she replied, according to the umpire’s recollection.
“Oh no,” Tumpane said, hooking his arm around hers. “You don’t want to do that. It’s just as good over here. Let’s go grab some lunch and talk.”
“No, no, no,” she answered. “I’m better off on this side. Just let me go.”
“I’m not going to let you go,” he said. “Let’s talk this out. We’ll get you back over here.”
“No one wants to help me,” she repeated. “Just let me go.”
“No, we’re here to help you.”
“You’ll forget me tomorrow.”
“I’ll never forget you,” he said. “You can have my promise on that.”
Tumpane’s response was honorable and courageous.
Once the women was taken care of and safe from harm, Tumpane called his wife and tried to relax in his hotel. He eventually made it to the stadium, suited up, and called the game, a 6-2 win for Pittsburgh.
As Tumpane said later, it was just a case of being in the right place at the right time.
Something as innocuous as walking across a bridge could change your life forever.
Tumpane, this woman, and that bridge are now forever immortalized as the story has spread this morning, even beyond baseball circles. Tumpane is a hero for doing what many may not have done in that same situation.
Not everybody will find his or herself in the position that Tumpane found himself in today, literally holding a person back from suicide, but there are other ways to be heroic when confronted with a similar situation.
If a friend or a family member talks about suicide, take him or her seriously.
If you, yourself, ever feel that you would not be remembered or that help is needed, we encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Your life has value, and you are loved.