It was part of Palermo's makeup to help others. “He was doing it instinctively,” his brother John said days after the robbery, which resulted in shots being fired and a bullet damaging Palermo's spinal cord.
Instinct and his on-field demeanor were the traits that 20 years earlier grabbed the attention of the MLB Director of Umpire Development, while Steve was umpiring a Little League all-star game in his hometown, Oxford, Mass. He had been a Little League umpire off and on since age 13. He even umpired games involving his younger brothers and nepotism certainly did not alter Steve's calls involving his siblings.
He never considered umpiring as a career until being discovered on the sandlot. He was attending college and planned to be an educator. His father, Vincent, was an elementary school principal. His brother John and his two sisters, Ann and Linda were in education. Thus, when Steve entertained the opportunity to attend the MLB Umpire Development Program or “umpire school” in Florida, one could imagine his father's initial reaction.
Palermo Didn't Heed Father's Advise
“It was not that he was overly surprised,” Palermo said reflecting about the conversation. “He looked at it from a pragmatic viewpoint...which was, 'okay fine, but go to college and finish your education and then do something unique.' So few knew about an umpire school.”
Steve did not heed his father's pragmatic approach and left shortly thereafter for the school. His career decision was validated a few years later and even more so once established in the Majors.
Of course, Palermo toiled in the obscurity and daily grind of the minor leagues – the New York-Penn League, the Carolina League, AA, AAA, the Dominican Republic Winter League and the Florida Instructional League. There was a game to work nearly everyday for nine months ... as many as 280 a year. The pay was a paltry $600 a month including expenses. Dinner was usually a concession stand hot dog.
He persevered and in five years he was umpiring in the Major Leagues, which is considered a meteoric rise to become a MLB umpire. Ironically, his first game occurred just a jaunt from his hometown at Boston's Fenway Park. His once-skeptic father joined him before the game, walking from the umpires' locker room through the Fenway tunnel as Steve headed to the field.