Former Major League umpire and NCAA basketball referee Delvis “Mac” McCadden has found a new home in USA Boxing. His remarkable journey through sports, often tainted by racism, at least during the beginning of his umpiring career, now finds him thoroughly enjoying amateur boxing as an official.
Simply put, McCadden was born and breed into sports. In 1949, his father bought his newborn son a four-fingered shortstop glove, because he wanted “Mac” to become a professional baseball player. Although that dream never came to fruition, “Mac” parlayed what his father taught him into a baseball career.
McCadden’s ultimate goal as a professional official was to referee an NCAA Final Four game and umpire a World Series game. He came close, but the first of many knee surgeries forced him into early retirement at 29, leaving him unable to squat or run today.
“I was on schedule,” the Roanoke, Virginia native explained. “I worked two NCAA Sweet 16 tournaments and knew that I’d umpire a World Series game because they were on a rotation schedule every five years. I was injured in 1979 during a pickup basketball game. I never regretted it, though, because I had a chance to do it. I came back as a referee in 1985-86 just to prove that I could do it.”
The highlight of his basketball officiating career was working one of the biggest pre-season tournaments, the Great Alaskan Shootout. “It was the first time I was on national television,” McCadden remembered. “Four of eight first team All-America players were in that tournament. My wife was a big North Carolina fan, but Syracuse was her No. 2 favorite. I ticked her off when I gave a technical to (Syracuse head coach Jim) Boeheim.”
One of the few African-American umpires when he broke in back in the early seventies, McCadden overcame a lot to become the official he was, as well as the man he is today.
“In 1973,” McCadden commented, “I was umpiring a AA game in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina. There’s only one way in and out of Smithville County and there were two large billboards at both ends of the road that had: Help support the United Klans of America.
“I’m light complexed and you really can’t tell I’m black unless you’re up close. It’s my first game there and I’m behind the plate. A fan yelled,” Oh my God, they sent us an Arab. I took my hat off for the national anthem and I had a small Afro. The same guy yells, ‘He’s no Arab, they sent us a ******* ( N-word)’. I had a rough game and threw out five people, three on one team and two on the other.
“After the game I walked past a woman who smashed a hot dog in my face and poured coke on my head. I was dressing in the locker room and people started beating a metal door down. They came in and I grabbed my facemask, but fortunately the cops came.
“When I left there was an elderly black gentleman waiting for me. He was Buck Leonard, a first baseman who played in the Negros League with Satchel Paige, and he’s in the Negro and Baseball Halls of Fame. This (racist behavior by fans) had never happened to me and I was going to quit. He invited me to have lunch with him the next day because he wanted to talk. It changed my life. I started letting things like that run off my back.”
There were some memorable umpiring moments along the way like throwing Billy Martin and Earl Weaver out of the same spring training game and umpiring a game in which the great Hank Aaron hit his final spring trainer home run.
“And I have that ball,” McCadden noted. “On his previous at bat, I called him out on a third strike that was high. The highlight of my umpiring career was in 1977 at the 30th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first pro game at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. I was umpiring in AA at the time and the stadium had been renovated. I met Jackie’s widow, Rachel Robinson, who was a lovely person and strikingly beautiful, even today in her nineties. I was the plate umpire and, to me, there was no higher honor.”
According to McCadden, who was an educator and local politician, he first got involved in amateur boxing in a strange way. In 1996, he helped start a boxing club in Roanoke with the city providing the facility. He went to the gym to hang out and prove that he really cared. In 2009, Roanoke hosted the Virginia Golden Gloves Tournament.
“I was sitting there and there weren’t enough judges,” McCadden said. “I was asked if I’d mind judging, but I wasn’t certified. I was given a mini-clinic, took the test, and passed for my first job in boxing. Six months later, I was in the ring refereeing. There were no sanctioned events in my area, so I had to go to other parts of the state to work events. It got to the point where I really liked it. I had commonsense sports knowledge. Nobody knew me there, so there were no grudges. In 2012, I became a level 2 Chief Officer in Virginia until 2014.”
McCadden was an official at the 2017 USA Boxing Eastern Qualifier and USA Boxing Junior Olympics, as well as the 2018 U.S. National Elite Boxing Championships and U.S National Junior Olympics. Today, “Mac” is a USA Boxing LBC #61, USIBA Chief of Officials, USIBA Board member representing the Roanoke Chapter, and one of the early USA Boxing Alumni Association members.