Sunday, May 14, 2017

Yanks Come Back to Beat Astros; Steve Palermo, 1949-2017

The Yankees needed to start hitting again. But that doesn't make much difference if you don't get good pitching.

As Richie Ashburn, the Philadelphia Phillies' Hall of Fame center fielder turned broadcaster, sometimes said to his broadcast partner Harry Kalas, "The game's easy, Harry, when you get good pitching, you get good fielding, and you score a few."

And when you don't, it gets hard. Ask the Mets, who blew leads of 7-1 and 9-6 today, and lost 11-9 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

A Matt Holliday groundout scored Brett Gardner in the 1st inning, giving Luis Severino an early lead to work with. But Sevy fell apart in the 3rd, and Joe Girardi pulled him for Chad Green. Green held the Astro lead at 3-1, and pitched scoreless ball through the 6th. He got the benefit of back-to-back home runs from Starlin Castro (his 7th) and Aaron Judge (his 14th -- and we're not even halfway through May), to make it 4-3 Yankees.

Girardi's binder must have told him to bring Adam Warren in for the 7th inning. I think Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS (no relation to former Yankee catcher Jake Gibbs) must have a Rule against bringing Adam Warren in to pitch with a 1-run lead. Warren gave the lead right back to the Astros, 6-4.

In the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees decided to give Warren a lead that even he couldn't blow. (Disclaimer: Don't challenge a bad pitcher like that.) With 1 out, Gardner singled. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled -- and yet, with his vaunted speed, Gardner did not score. Holliday beat out a grounder to short, and, for the 2nd time on the day, brought a run home without getting the ball out of the infield. Castro doubled home Ellsbury, tying the game.

The Astros wisely walked Judge intentionally, loading the bases, but also setting up the double play or, at least, a force at any base. Didi Gregorius struck out. But Chase Headley nearly hit one out, ending up with a bases-clearing triple. Chris Carter followed with a double that scored Carter.

Gardner hit a home run in the 8th, to put the cherry on the sundae. Yankees 11, Astros 6. So, despite blowing the lead, Warren ended up as the winning pitcher (1-0). Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless 9th, but with a 5-run lead, he didn't get a save. The losing pitcher was Astro reliever Will Harris (1-1).

That was game 1 of a doubleheader, forced by yesterday's rain. As I type this, it is pouring rain in Central Jersey -- but the Sun is shining. And the Yankees won a wild game, and the Mets lost one. Just your typical day in the New York Tri-State Area.

But this puts a question mark on the Derek Jeter Night celebration, which was scheduled for a night game so ESPN could put it on Sunday Night Baseball. Who knows?


Steve Palermo had an inspiring story. That story came to an end today.

Stephen Michael Palermo was born on October 9, 1949, outside Boston in Worcester, Massachusetts, and grew up in nearby Oxford. He studied to become a teacher, until he began training to become an umpire. He was hired to officiate in the minor leagues in 1972, and was named an American League umpire in 1977.
August 16, 1979, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore.
Earl Weaver appears to be calling Steve Palermo a stooge.
Being the umpire, Steve gets the last word, and it isn't, "Soitenly."

He was regarded as one of the best in the business. His career included the 1978 American League Eastern Division Playoff (he was the 3rd base umpire, and can be seen in the video signaling "home run" for Bucky Dent's bloop), Dave Righetti's no-hitter in 1983, the 1983 World Series and the 1986 All-Star Game.

On July 7, 1991, Steve Palermo and Rich Garcia, and 2 friends were dining at Campisi's, an Italian restaurant in Dallas, after umpiring a game at the Texas Rangers' Arlington Stadium. They heard that 2 waitresses were being mugged across the street. They tried to intervene, and chased the muggers off. Two of them got in a car. Palermo and his friends tackled the third. But the car came back around, and somebody started shooting.

The friends escaped with minor injuries. The shot hit Palermo nicked a kidney and pushed into his spinal cord. His doctors later said that he was 1 millimeter away from death.

He survived, but was told he would never walk again. He managed to work his way through rehab, until he could walk with a brace on one leg and a cane. Less than 5 months after being shot, he was invited to throw out the ceremonial first ball before Game 1 of the World Series in Minneapolis. As far as I know, he was the 1st umpire, current or former, ever to receive such an honor.

(Again, as far as I know, the 1st active player to receive such an honor was Hank Aaron in 1973. Campisi's is still open. Joe Campisi opened it in 1946, and is said to have once had Mob connections. Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, was a friend of Joe's, and Joe visited him in jail.)
If you've survived being shot,
and walked again after being told you never would,
 you ain't gonna be afraid of no Cover Jinx.

Steve's umpiring career was over, but the AL designed not to reassign his Number 14, effectively retiring it, until the League's umpiring crews were merged in 2000. (Mark Wegner has it now.)

By 1994, he had recovered from his disability enough to begin working with the Major League Baseball office, and in 2000 was named an umpire supervisor for the newly-combined crews.

He also began working with children with disabilities, and was also a motivational speaker. He was also honored when the 2012 All-Star Game was played in his adopted hometown of Kansas City.
Left to right: Tony Randazzo, Lance Barksdale, Gerry Davis,
Steve Palermo, Brian Runge, Jim Joyce and Brian Knight.

Steve Palermo died today, May 14, 2017, from cancer. He was 67. He is survived by his wife, Debbie.

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