Former Major League Baseball umpire Steve Palermo died Sunday at the age of 67 after a long battle with cancer.

Ex-MLB Umpire Steve Palermo Dies at 67, Tributes Pour In

Tributes from all around the baseball world have surfaced, including one from writer Joe Posnanski, who recounted a story about a historic playoff game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in 1978 that became known for the “Bucky Bleepin’ Dent” home run scored by the Yankees’ staring shortstop at the time, Bucky Dent. 

Palermo ran down the line and called Den’ts homer fair, something that greatly upset his father Vincent, who was convinced the shortstop had hit a foul ball. Here is Posnanski’s description of the scene:

“Stevie was working third base during the 1978 American League East single-game playoff between the Red Sox and the Yankees. Palermo, as mentioned, had grown up in nearby Worcester. He grew up in a Red Sox family; heck his Sawx lineage went back more or less to the days the Sawx traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees.


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Well, you know the story of that game. Sox led 2-0 going into the seventh, and the Yankees’ Bucky Dent — no power Bucky Dent, choking-up-5-inches-on-the-bat Bucky Dent — popped a three-run homer over the Green Monster in left. Steve Palermo was the umpire who called it a fair ball and made the home run sign.

Not long after, Stevie saw his father Vincent. Stevie noticed his Dad acting cold toward him.

“What’s the matter, Pops?” he asked.

“What,” Vincent blurted out, “you couldn’t have called that ball foul?”

“It was like 20 feet fair,” Stevie said.

At which point Vincent Palermo said the one word that made Stevie and I crack up every day. He said: “So?”

Palermo was a full-time MLB umpire from 1977-1991, and was forced to retire after being shot while attempting to help two wait-staff members who were being mugged in a Dallas restaurant parking lot in 1991. The Kansas City native was left paralyzed and was told he would never walk again, though he ended up using a cane to take the mound and threw the ceremonial first pitch in Game 1 of that year’s World Series at the now-defunct Metrodome in Minneapolis months afterwards.

The Royals also paid homage to Palermo on Sunday by tweeting the following photo of him at Kauffman Stadium:

Commissioner Rob Manfred released the following statement on Palermo:

“Steve Palermo was a great umpire, a gifted communicator and a widely respected baseball official, known in our sport for his leadership and courage,” the MLB commissioner’s statement read. “He had an exceptional impact on both his fellow major league umpires and baseball fans, who benefited from his ability to explain the rules of our game. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Steve’s wife, Debbie, the World Umpires Association and his many friends and admirers throughout the game.”

Hall of Famer George Brett, the Royals’ vice president of baseball operations, also relayed this touching tribute to Palermo that was reported by Ben Walker of the Associated Press:

“I remember when he came up,” Hall of Famer George Brett said at the Orioles-Royals game. “Obviously, it didn’t take him long to be respected as one of the finest umpires in the game.

“At the time of his unfortunate shooting in Dallas, trying to save some girl, he was definitely regarded as probably the best umpire in baseball. It’s very sad,” he said.

…And Brett pointed out, Palermo could be pretty animated, too.

“You can get on YouTube and pull up Steve Palermo and arguments and [Orioles Hall of Fame manager] Earl Weaver has a couple of really good ones with him,” he said.

“It’s kind of ironic we’re playing the Orioles today. Earl is no longer with us and neither is Stevie and right now they’re probably having another one up in heaven.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter also expressed the heartbreak he felt upon learning of his friend’s loss after Baltimore’s loss in Kansas City on Sunday.

“I’ve known Steve for a long time. My first year in the big leagues, he treated me like a 20-year veteran. I’ll always remember that,” Showalter said. “Steve was a very honest man. I appreciate his bluntness. He helped me along the way. He helped a lot of people: umpires, coaches, managers. He’s as talented an umpire as I’ve ever seen.”

Palermo was also most famous for being the plate umpire for Dave Righetti’s no-hitter at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox on July 4, 1983. In 2000, Palermo became an MLB umpire supervisor.

In addition to his career on the field, Palermo was known for his community out-reach initiatives, like raising millions of dollars for the National Paralysis Foundation.

ST LOUIS, MO – OCTOBER 24: Major League baseball Supervisor of Umpires Steve Palermo (L) talks with manager Tony La Russa #10 of the St. Louis Cardinals prior to Game Three of 2006 World Series the Detroit Tigers at Busch Stadium on October 24, 2006 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

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