Though he took a circuitous route to the big leagues, Jim McKean evolved into one of the most respected umpires of his generation. After graduating from Montreal’s Monklands High School, where he claimed top athlete honours, McKean became a quarterback with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. He was named the league’s outstanding rookie in 1963 and was part of the Riders’ Grey Cup-winning squad in 1966.
A superb all-around athlete, McKean would also serve as a junior hockey referee and as a basketball coach at Concordia University, before focusing on umpiring. He began calling games at the minor-pro level in 1970 and worked his first big league game in 1974. During his 28-year major league career, he would oversee seven no-hitters, three all-star games (1980, 1982, 1993) and three World Series (1979, 1985, 1995). He also served as the third base umpire in Len Barker’s perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 15, 1981.
Esteemed by players, managers and fellow arbiters, McKean was named Major League Baseball Umpire of the Year in 1988. In 2002, he accepted a position as supervisor of umpires with the commissioner’s office. In this role, he acts as a liaison between Major League Baseball and its umpires. In 2018 he was inducted into the Florida State League Hall of Fame.