Jim McKean, a longtime Major League Baseball umpire who played parts of three seasons in the Canadian Football League, died Thursday in Florida. He was 73.
His son, Jamie, said McKean — a Montreal native — died overnight in his sleep in St. Petersburg, his hometown since the early 1980s. McKean contracted an infection after being treated for a kidney issue last fall but his passing was unexpected, his son said.
McKean worked his first big-league game in 1973 and spent almost 30 seasons as an MLB umpire. He worked three all-star games, three World Series and was named MLB umpire of the year in 1988.
“Major League Baseball sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jim McKean, an accomplished major league umpire and later an umpire supervisor for the office of the Commissioner,” MLB said in an emailed statement. “Jim was a highly respected figure in the sport, and we are particularly grateful that he represented our game so well in his native Canada.”
McKean spent parts of two seasons with the Alouettes before winning a Grey Cup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1966. Primarily a backup quarterback and punter, his football career was cut short due to a back injury.
McKean also served as a junior hockey referee and was a basketball coach at his alma mater Concordia University. He began calling minor-league baseball games in 1970 before joining the American League staff in 1973.
Known for his jovial spirit and friendliness, McKean was on the field for 10 no-hitters over his career.
“His demeanour I think was his biggest asset,” Jamie McKean said from St. Petersburg. “He was a very calm but forceful guy.”
McKean was the third-base umpire when Cleveland Indians pitcher Len Barker threw a perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1981. He called games in three division series, five league championship series, and worked the Fall Classic in 1979, 1985 and 1995.
“RIP Jim McKean. Everyone in the game loved him,” longtime baseball writer and broadcaster Ken Rosenthal said on Twitter.
McKean became supervisor of umpires with the commissioner’s office in 2002 and spent seven years in the role. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.
A moment of silence was held for McKean on Thursday morning at the MLB/Major League Umpires annual meetings in Arizona.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalized.