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Huskies News · Lessons for Life – Spring Season: Lesson 8

SAVHS Lessons for Life allow our athletes an opportunity to look at athletics in a different light.  Each week a new lesson is introduced to our athletes to promote the development of the whole athlete – in the present and the future.

An Everyday Hero[1]

Major League Baseball was in mourning this past weekend. Players and managers used

Steve Palmero

the words “one of the best”, “gifted”, “just a class guy,” and “a hero” when hearing the news of the passing of a beloved colleague.

It wasn’t a player they were talking about.  It wasn’t another manager, coach, or scout, or executive.  They were talking about former MLB umpire Steve Palermo.  Palermo, 67, died of cancer.  While Palermo was known as one of the best umpires in the game, it was a moment of selflessness off the field in 1991 that changed his life, and legacy, forever.

There are many great stories about Palermo.  One story is about the time he was watching a rookie pitcher warm up for his MLB debut.  Seeing the nervousness and anxiety in the young pitcher’s body and face, he walked out to the mound, gave the pitcher a new ball, and told him “You just get that first pitch close; I’ll call it a strike. And then we’ll get this game going.”  It was future World Series MVP Curt Schilling’s debut.  On that first pitch, Palermo called it a strike against Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.

But the most incredible, and life changing story, one that tells the story of who Palermo really was, happened in July, 1991.  Palermo never thought of himself as a hero, but his selflessness in a moment’s notice nearly three decades ago ended his umpiring career.  It was an act of courage and heroism.

Palermo was having a late-night meal in Dallas when two servers who had just left the restaurant were being mugged across the street.  Palermo and two friends rushed to the aid of the victims, two of the muggers took off in a car. Palermo and another guy chased the third mugger down on foot, caught him, and had him on the ground. Then the car with the other two attackers came back. Gunshots rang out, and five bullets flew through the air.

One shot missed everyone. Palermo’s friend took three bullets, including one in the face, and he fully recovered.  The other bullet hit Palermo, slicing through his abdomen, bouncing off a kidney, breaking bone and pushing into his spinal cord. It missed killing Palermo by 1 millimeter.

Palermo was told he would never walk again.  His response was to work harder than ever and continue to make a difference in life.  By the fall of 2001 Palermo was able to make it to the mound with a cane to throw the first ball for the 1991 World Series opener at the Metrodome.  He was later hired by Major League Baseball as a special assistant to the chairman of the MLB Executive Council and an umpire supervisor for Major League Baseball.  In addition, Palermo was named the honorary commissioner for a White House Tee Ball Initiative (a program launched by President George W. Bush for children with disabilities) and won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

[1] A product of the SAVHS Athletics Department.  Inspiration from: The Associated Press,, and Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star.