PITTSBURGH -- Straight out of his suburban Chicago high school, John Tumpane became a professional umpire at 18. After a long slog beating the bushes, he reached his destination last year: the major leagues.
Apparently, however, there was one more place he needed to be.
That place was the Roberto Clemente Bridge, where on Wednesday a woman was poised for an apparent suicide attempt. She might have succeeded if not for Tumpane. The 34-year-old umpire guessed the woman was about the same age.
Part of the crew working the series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays at PNC Park, Tumpane was crossing the bridge over the Allegheny River en route to his North Shore hotel around 2:30 p.m.
"Maybe 30 feet in front of me, I saw a woman up ahead and I saw her put her leg up on the rail," he recounted after the game. "And that obviously grabs your attention.
"There was a couple up ahead of me. I kind of scurried up a little bit and said, 'What's this lady doing?' And, as soon as I said that, she flipped over the rail to the other side, and my instinct was to just go right at her. I didn't want to scare her because I wasn't sure what was going on.
"I said, 'Hey, what's going on?' She said, 'Oh I just want to get a better look from this side of the rail.' I just kind of put my arm on her shoulder and said, 'Oh no, why don't you come back over on this side? It's the same view over here.'
"She said, 'No, no, I'm good,' and I knew at that point she wasn't just taking a look at the other side.
"At that point, she said, 'Just let me go. It'll be better off that way.' And I said, 'No, come on. Let me buy you lunch. Why don't you come back over on this side? We'll talk things over.'
"She said, 'No, no.' And I said, 'Come on, please.'
"At that point, I was able to get both arms around her, hang on and just try to console her and talk to her."
He said he signaled to a nearby pedestrian to call 911.
Tumpane said another man grabbed the woman's arm. But her feet were dangling off the ledge, he said, "and we had to pull her up."
Michael Weinman, the Rays' multimedia production manager, also happened upon the scene, and Tumpane told him to hold the woman's ankles to the bottom rail.
Meanwhile, police and other support had arrived. The woman was handcuffed to the bridge, and an ambulance eventually took the woman away.
Tumpane resumed his life, a bit shaken. He went to the park, put on the tools and took his post behind the plate. He did his job.
Still, he said, there were times he couldn't help but spot the big yellow bridge just beyond the ballpark, "in between innings and whatnot, just thinking of how things could have maybe been. Glad it was this way."
Tumpane said the woman told him, "You'll just forget me after this."
He told her, "No, I'll never forget you."