Eddie O’Brien, 83, a legendary figure in Seattle University athletics who played alongside his twin brother at SU and in the major leagues in the 1950s, died Friday morning.
O’Brien played baseball and basketball with his brother Johnny at Seattle U and was athletic director at the school from 1958-80.
He was an ardent fan of the Redhawks — known as the Chieftains when he was playing and working for the school — and attended their most recent basketball game Thursday night with Grand Canyon at KeyArena. He was a member of the baseball board for the school and of its hall of fame committee.
“He was there last night, bantering with all the guys he usually sits with,” said his step-daughter Jill. “He was literally the most generous, giving man I know, always positive. He had great stories to tell. He had a very full and colorful life.”
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The O’Briens hailed from South Amboy, N.J., and came west to Seattle U after meeting basketball coach Al Brightman at a semi-pro tournament in Wichita, Kan., in 1949. Eddie, 5-9, averaged 13 points a game and helped SU to the 1952 NIT and 1953 NCAA tournaments.
They made a bigger mark in baseball, however. Both were signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953, and played together from 1953 to 1958. Eddie had 554 major-league at-bats and hit .236, playing primarily shortstop, center ield and third base.
His stepdaughter said that perhaps once a week, he’d still get baseball cards in the mail from fans, which he’d autograph, take to Johnny to sign, and then return them.
After he finished his baseball career, he began as AD with Seattle U, also serving as baseball coach for 14 years, with a record of 276-135. In 1969, he was bullpen coach with the Seattle Pilots for their one season.
O’Brien was still a strong supporter of Redhawks athletics in his later years, especially as the school made the transition back to NCAA Division I. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease this winter but remained active in school-related functions.
“He was not only just a terrific person, but he dedicated himself to Seattle U,” said Bill Hogan, the school’s athletic director. “He was always doing stuff for our baseball program, our basketball program and me personally.
“There will never be another like him; he was just a unique, caring individual that loved his university. My whole department, they all loved him. He helped everybody.”
Survivors include his wife Terry and six children. Services are pending.