Pete McCabe Continues to Officiate Sports Long After Brutal Attack

Paul Steinbach Headshot

If anyone understands the nation’s sports officiating crisis on a personal level, it’s Pete McCabe. The 35-year field veteran was nearly killed in 2009 when, following a semi-pro football playoff game, a player swung his helmet by the mask into McCabe’s head, breaking bones in his face and rearranging his nose and teeth. “Take this. This is what I’m all about,” shouted his assailant, Leon Woods, who served eight years and three months of a 10-year prison sentence for his actions. For McCabe, swelling delayed surgery for a full week, he ate nothing but applesauce and slept in a chair for a month and a half, and he carries titanium screws and plates — and numbness — in his face to this day. No one would blame him for hanging up the whistle, and McCabe vowed he would never return. Today, he not only officiates high school football, boys’ lacrosse and girls’ basketball, he assigns officials for the Rochester (N.Y.) Chapter of Certified Football Officials. AB senior editor Paul Steinbach, who lasted one season as a baseball umpire, asked McCabe, 66, why he came back, when so many others are abandoning the vocation.

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