Kulpa in 2011
|Born: October 5, 1968|
St. Louis, Missouri
|July 23, 1998|
|Career highlights and awards|
Kulpa's professional umpiring career began in 1992 and he advanced to the Pacific Coast League in 1998. Kulpa was one of the 22 umpires promoted in the wake of the Major League Umpires Association's mass-resignation strategy in July 1999, and was named to the National League staff for the remainder of the 1999 season. When the umpiring staffs from the two leagues merged for the 2000 season, Kulpa began working in both leagues.
He has worked several MLB Special Events, including the All-Star Game (2001, 2015), Division Series (2001, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), League Championship Series (2005, 2013, 2014), and World Series (2011). He also officiated in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Working first base in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series (his first World Series as an umpire), Kulpa controversially called St. Louis Cardinals hitter Matt Holliday safe after Holliday grounded into what would have been the second out of a routine double play in the game's fourth inning. Kulpa claimed that Holliday had arrived at first base prior to the tag from Texas Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli, although replays subsequently proved that Napoli had indeed tagged him out by a full stride, prior to Holliday's stumbling across the base and falling. Kulpa later told a pool reporter after the game that he was aware Napoli had tagged Holliday, but he thought Holliday's foot was already on the base. He did not ask for a second opinion. When the game ended, Kulpa reviewed the play on tape and admitted he should have called Holliday out. The Cardinals went on to win the game 16-7, and eventually won the Series in seven games.
On August 12, 2013, he ejected Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski for arguing a ball three call during pitcher Yu Darvish's bid for a perfect game against the Houston Astros. The perfect game was broken up moments later on an ensuing ball four pitch to Astros batter Jonathan Villar.
During the 9th inning of a Red Sox-Yankees game on May 6, 2016, the Red Sox had the bases loaded when Kulpa ruled Andrew Miller's 3-2 breaking ball to David Ortiz a strike. According to ESPN, the pitch was low and outside of the strike zone by 5 ½ inches. Had the pitch been ruled a ball, Ortiz would have walked in the game-tying run. On the immediately preceding pitch, Ortiz had expressed displeasure with Kulpa's 3-1 strike call, a correct ruling on a pitch located within the strike zone, but caught oddly by catcher Brian McCann; Manager John Farrell was ejected in Ortiz's stead following the 3-1 pitch, while Ortiz was ejected following the 3-2 pitch.
Kulpa was the home plate umpire when Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter at Comerica Park vs. the Milwaukee Brewers on June 12, 2007. Five days before Verlander's no-hitter, Kulpa called balls and strikes in a game between the Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics in which Boston pitcher Curt Schilling had a no-hitter until Shannon Stewart broke up the no-hitter with a single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Kulpa was the first base umpire on July 09, 2011 when Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees got his 3000th career hit against the Tampa Bay Rays. He was the plate umpire for Henderson Álvarez's no-hitter on September 29, 2013.
Prior to pursuing professional umpiring, Kulpa attended Florissant Valley Community College before transferring to Missouri Baptist College, where he was a member of the baseball team, but rarely played.