Former American League Umpire
White House Tee Ball Commissioner
From the time he began his career as an American League Umpire in 1977, Steve Palermo was widely regarded as one of the best umpires in the game. In 15 years on the field, he brought a boundless energy and enthusiasm to a game that he loved.
Steve Palermo was born October 9, 1949, in Worcester, Massachusetts. He studied Education at Norwich University, Leicester Junior College and Worcester State College before attending the Umpire Development Program in 1972. His minor league career included work in the N.Y. -Penn., Carolina, Eastern and American Association Leagues. He also worked winter baseball in the Florida Instructional, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rican Leagues. In 1977, after only five years in the minor leagues, Steve joined the Major Leagues as an American League Umpire.
His career highlights include two of the most famous games in N.Y. Yankees history. In 1978, he worked the Yankees one game playoff against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park to determine the Eastern Divisional winner. In fact, it was Palermo, serving as the third base umpire, who signaled "fair ball" when Bucky Dent hit the game winning home run. On July 4, 1978 he worked behind the plate for Dave Righetti's no-hitter against the Red Sox at Yankees Stadium.
His career as an umpire also includes the 1983 World Series, four American League Championship Series (1980, 1982, 1984, 1989) and the 1986 All-Star Game. In August 1991, The Sporting News ranked Steve number 1 among American League Umpires for overall performance.
In early July 1991, it seemed that Palermo's umpire career might have ended, but everyone knows it is difficult to win an argument with an umpire and Steve refuses to lose this one. On July 7, 1991, Steve and several friends were dining after a Texas Rangers game when they were alerted that two waitresses were being mugged in the parking lot. In an attempt to apprehend the assailants, Steve suffered a bullet wound to his spinal cord, resulting in instant paralysis to the lower extremities. Doctors told Steve and his wife, Debbie, that he would probably never walk again. Yet through rehabilitation and a lot of determination, Palermo is winning his argument...he is walking with the use of one small leg brace and a cane, and says he will return to the game he loves so much.
On December 1, 1992, the Steve Palermo Foundation for Spinal Cord Injuries (SPF/SCI) formally opened their doors. The foundation was formed to fund research for the discovery of a cure for paralysis while also providing hope and support to those with spinal cord injuries and their families...helping them get "One Step Closer to Home."
On January 1, 1995, the SPF/SCI merged with the Kent Waldrep National Paralysis Foundation (KWNPF). When the KWNPF closed in September of 2003, Steve and his family looked for a way to continue the work that they had started. They found their answer by forming a partnership with the Kansas University Endowment Association. The Steve Palermo Endowment for Spinal Cord Injury Research was formed. The same drive and dedication that returned Palermo to his feet fuels the efforts of this endowment to aid in the discovery of a cure for paralysis.
Since Steves injury, he has become highly regarded as a motivational speaker. He travels the country relaying his message of Never Admit Defeat to corporations and organizations nationwide. In 1994, Steve was named special Assistant to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. In 1996 1997, he provided feature reports and served as a color analyst for the New York Yankees cable network. In 2000, Steve was named Supervisor of Umpires, an additional role he now plays with Major League Baseball.
Amid his busy schedule Steve finds time to be chairman of the Pride of Kansas City (Pride), the charitable foundation of the annual Champions Tour Bayer Advantage Golf Classic in Overland Park, Kansas. The Pride is a non-profit organization led by a board of directors comprised of Kansas Citys top business and civic leaders, formed with a goal of raising $1 million annually for charity, while hosting national caliber events that bring pride and awareness to Kansas City.
In addition, Steve is the chairman of The WillReturn Council® which was formed in 1997 by Fortis Benefits Insurance, now Assurant Employee Benefits, to honor individuals who demonstrate remarkable initiative and positive attitude, either during recovery from a disabling injury or illness, or while adapting to a new lifestyle necessitated by their disability.
Steve also serves as the honorary chairman of the Mid-America Games, a non-profit organization in Kansas City that provides competitive modified opportunities for athletes with physical disabilities. Through these annual games, the goal is to provide opportunities for individuals to reach and expand their potential within their physical ability.
Steve, his wife Debbie, and their Boxer dog Bentley, currently reside in Overland Park, Kansas.