Oak Lawn native and MLB ump Tumpane saves a life in Pittsburgh

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Oak Lawn native and St. Laurence graduate John Tumpane speaks to the media after saving a woman’s life in Pittsburgh.


“Truly heroic.”

“God bless him.’’

“Don’t boo this umpire!”

Wait a minute…are people in social media praising an umpire?

You bet.

St. Laurence graduate and Oak Lawn native John Tumpane may have been the object of much Twitter scorn for his performance calling balls and strikes in a June 25 game in Kansas City (“I think it’s fair to ask if $ was on the line or are you that bad of an umpire?” one disgruntled Royals fan Tweeted) but three days later, this Major League Baseball arbiter was praised in the Twitter world – and real world, too -- for his quick-thinking and compassion as he helped save a woman’s life in Pittsburgh.

As he was walking on the Roberto Clemente Bridge several hours before calling a game between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, Tumpane grabbed a woman who was climbing over a railing on the bridge, which spans over the Allegheny River. He said she told him she wanted a better look at the city’s skyline but he wasn’t buying it. The woman appeared to be suicidal and Tumpane kept hanging on and talking to her until more help arrived.

“I saw her put her leg up on the rail, Tumpane said during a news conference. “Obviously that grabs your attention. I saw the situation and I was lucky enough to be there to help.

“I had to think of everything I could do to just hang on to her and when she was thinking of going the other way, I was like ‘not on my watch…please.’ We were both just hanging on and thankfully there were other people around with cellphones and we had the right people helping us.’’

A police boat, helicopter, ambulance and fire truck arrived at the scene.

Tumpane, who is listed by as living in Burbank, talked briefly with her after the rescue.

“She said ‘you’ll just forget me after this,’ ’’ Tumpane said. “I said ‘no, I’ll never forget you.’ It was an unbelievable day and I’m glad to say that she is going to have another day with us and I’m glad I was in the right place at the right time.

“This isn’t about me. This is about her and people who care about her. I’m glad it’s a positive story and not a sad story.’’

According to reports, the woman was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Tumpane, 34, graduated from St. Laurence in 2001 and made his Major League Baseball debut on Aug. 2, 2010.

On Aug. 21 2015, he was behind the plate when Houston starter Mike Fiers threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also worked the World Baseball Classic in 2013.

Some St. Laurence community members were not taken aback by Tumpane’s heroics.

“I have been fortunate to be friends with John for 20 years now,” said former classmate and teammate Adam Lotus, who is St. Laurence’s alumni director and assistant baseball coach. “I am not shocked one bit by this. He is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever been around.  

“John is the most humble person as well. I am sure he doesn't want all this attention but something like this shouldn't go unnoticed.  He comes from a great family who I also know very well so again not shocked by this. He was a great teammate and still a great friend.’’