Dan O’Brien, who served as president and general manager of the Mariners from 1979-83, died in Dallas Tuesday at 87. O’Brien made the first managerial change in franchise history and spearheaded efforts that resulted in Seattle landing the 1979 Major League All-Star Game, played in the Kingdome. Mariners president and COO Kevin Mather issued a statement:
“On behalf of the Seattle Mariners organization, I extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dan O’Brien. He was a true gentleman who loved the game of baseball at all levels and served it well for over 45 years. Dan was the Mariners president in 1979-1980, and added general manager duties in 1981-1983, leading the organization’s efforts in hosting the 1979 All-Star Game and through an ownership transition. He is remembered by many for his dedication to the baseball community and most importantly to his family.
“Our best wishes are with Dan’s wife Mary Ann, his son Dan Jr., who worked for the Mariners in the inaugural season 1977, his daughter Lori, and his many friends in the baseball world.”
O’Brien began his Mariners career when the club was owned by a group headed by comedian Danny Kaye, the first to own the franchise. Then O’Brien spent four years working for its next owner, California real estate mogul George Argyros.
O’Brien presided over the first managerial change in franchise history, replacing Darrell Johnson with Maury Wills in 1980, the rapid ouster of Wills in 1981 and the hiring of Rene Lachemann as Wills’ replacement. During O’Brien’s tenure, the club signed Gaylord Perry, who won his 300th career game May 6, 1982 in the Kingdome.
“He had the personality to survive,” noted MLB.com columnist Tracy Ringolsby, a beat writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer when O’Brien was with the Mariners. “Nothing bothered him as long as he could have a dish of ice cream to cap off the night.”
O’Brien spent 45 years in professional baseball and held front-office jobs with three franchises in addition to the Mariners. He worked as Texas GM before joining the Mariners and later held front-office positions with the Cleveland Indians and California Angels.
He also worked in the baseball operations department of the Arizona Fall League from 1994-96, then served as executive director of USA Baseball from 1997 through his retirement in 2000.