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Steve Palermo (1949–2017)

by Legacy Staff

Former MLB umpire was hailed for heroism when he came to the aid of two waitresses being robbed at gunpoint.

Steve Palermo, a former Major League Baseball umpire who became a hero after he tried to break up a robbery in 1991, died Sunday, May 14, 2017, of cancer, according to multiple news sources. He was 67.

Palermo was shot in the back after he intervened in a fracas outside an Italian restaurant in Dallas, where several men were trying to rob two waitresses. The bullet struck his spinal cord, instantly paralyzing him from the waist down. The injury ended his umpiring career.


Although doctors told him and his wife, Debbie, that he wasn’t likely to walk again, Palermo didn’t take “no” for an answer. The umpire underwent painful rehabilitation at the MidAmerica Rehabilitation Center in Overland Park, Kansas. He eventually recovered sufficiently to walk with the help of a cane and a small leg brace.

Palermo’s No. 14 on his American League umpire uniform was retired after the American League and National League umpire staffs were merged in 2000.

Palermo, who was born Oct. 9, 1949, in Worcester, Massachusetts, received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 1994. The annual award goes to people who make contributions that “transcend sports.”

Palermo also supervised MLB umpires, and he gave motivational speeches.

Word of Palermo’s death prompted many current and former MLB personalities to pay tribute to the man.

The Kansas City Royals organization tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with our friend and former MLB umpire, Steve Palermo, who passed away at the age of 67 today.”

Ozzie Guillen, the former MLB player who coached the Chicago White Sox to the team’s World Series championship in 2005, tweeted: “Very saddened by the news that best umpire and even better person has passed away steve palermo. We lost a special one today.”

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