A Major League Baseball umpire’s job is at times thankless and stressful. They’re often yelled at and criticized for their judgement calls on plays or for handing out discipline for bad behavior, as they try to keep the game organized and enforce the rules.
But one umpire showed that the true test of a great person is not whether everyone always praises you.
It’s whether or not you choose to do the right thing in the toughest situation imaginable.
MLB umpire John Tumpane is from Chicago, but he was in Pittsburgh for a game between the Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays on June 28. He had just finished up his lunch after going for a run, and he was crossing Roberto Clemente Bridge around 3 p.m., when something caught his attention.
“[I] saw this woman ahead of me try to put one foot up on the rail of the bridge,” he said, according to the Post-Gazette. “Next thing I know she’s got her body on the rail and flips over to the other side.”
Tumpane rushed over to the 23-year-old woman and gently asked her what she was doing. She said she just wanted to get a better look at the city.
But Tumpane knew something was wrong, and he hooked his arm around hers as he asked her to come back over the rail.
“Why don’t we just go grab some lunch and talk about [it]?” he said. “No, no, no,” she said. “I’m better off on this side. Just let me go.”
“I’m not going to let you go,” Tumpane said.
Although other people had been either ignoring the woman or taking pictures up to this point, his actions soon inspired three other men to step in to help hold the woman back while someone else called 911. Tumpane continued telling the woman that he didn’t want her to die and that people cared about her.
“No one wants to help me,” she said. “No, we’re here to help you,” said Tumpane. “You’ll forget me tomorrow,” she said.
“I’ll never forget you,” he said. “You can have my promise on that.”
A psychologist and chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention told the Post-Gazette that what Tumpane did was exactly what people should do in this kind of situation.
“His loving message to her was that you matter. It resonates for all of us and is very profound,” said Dr. Christine Moutier.
The group held tightly onto the woman, even as she slipped her feet off the edge several times, forcing the men to hold up her entire weight. Tumpane said he “held on for dear life.”
Finally first responders arrived, including police, ambulance, a police boat below, and a helicopter above, and they were able to pull the woman back over to the other side. Tumpane continued to console the woman and prayed for her as she lay on the ground crying.
“It was one of the most beautiful acts I’ve ever witnessed,” said Steph Chambers, a photographer.
Tumpane only had an hour to try to calm down before he had to work at the game that evening. His heroic actions were announced over the loudspeaker before the game, and he received a standing ovation, even as he continued to be humble.