After two separate stints, which totaled 28 years of service, Chuck Armstrong stepped down as Seattle Mariners President and Chief Operating Officer in a somewhat surprising announcement on Monday afternoon.
The team issued a press release, stating that Armstrong, 71, would retire, effective January 31, 2014.
“Thirty years ago my family and I were given a wonderful opportunity to move to the Seattle area and become associated with the Seattle Mariners,” Armstrong said in a statement. “We quickly grew to love this community and this team. Through all the good times and the not-so-good times on the field since 1984, the goal always has been to win the World Series. My only regret is that the entire region wasn’t able to enjoy a parade through the City to celebrate a World Championship together.
“After much thought and reflection, it is now time for me to retire and enjoy as much time as possible with my wife Susan and our family. The recent deaths of several good friends have really had an impact on me and helped crystallize my decision. This was a very difficult, very personal decision, but I know in my heart that it’s time to turn the page and move to the next chapter of my life.
“Thanks to our outstanding ownership, the franchise is stable and will remain the Northwest’s team, playing in Safeco Field, a great ballpark and great example of a successful public-private partnership. The team is in good hands and positioned for future success. I am thankful for this important part in my life and I will always bleed Mariners Blue. Susan and I plan to continue to live here and remain involved in many community events and causes.”
During his tenure, the Mariners made four playoff appearances and set a major league record with 116 wins in the 2001 season. But the organization never made an appearance in the World Series. Only two current organizations in major league baseball – the Mariners and Nationals (Expos) – have never participated in the Fall Classic.
Armstrong was first brought to the Mariners in 1983 by George Argyros, a wealthy California real estate mogul, who purchased the organization. He had served as Argyros’ general counsel previously.
It was during that time that Armstrong made one of his most memorable decisions as president. The Mariners had the first pick of the 1987 amateur draft and Argyros was adamant that they select right-handed pitcher Mike Harkey – that year’s top collegiate pitcher – out of Cal State Fullerton. However, Roger Jongewaard, who was then the director of amateur scouting told Armstrong that they needed to select to a young outfielder out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati named Ken Griffey Jr. While Argyros held firm on his belief about drafting Harkey, Armstrong, with the help of Jongewaard, ultimately convinced the owner that selecting Griffey was the proper move and the rest was local baseball history.
“We wouldn’t have baseball in Seattle today if that doesn’t happen,” Armstrong said at Griffey’s induction into the Mariners’ hall of fame this summer.
Armstrong was let go as president when Argyros sold the team to Indiana businessman Jeff Smulyan in 1989. He worked as a consultant for local businesses and served as interim athletic director of the University of Washington in 1991.
With the Mariners up for sale and possible relocation to Tampa Bay in 1991, Armstrong was asked by then Senator Slade Gorton to work with a group of local investors led by Seattle businessman John Ellis to keep the team in Seattle. With the backing of Nintendo Company, the Baseball Club of Seattle purchased the team in 1992. Armstrong was immediately brought back to serve as team president, a position he’s held ever since.
“When the Baseball Club of Seattle purchased the franchise in 1992, it was clear that Chuck Armstrong was uniquely qualified to lead the organization,” said Mariners Chief Executive Officer Howard Lincoln. “Since day one, he has given his heart and soul to Mariners baseball. He sincerely cares about the game of baseball, this organization, this city and this region. On behalf of ownership and everyone who has worked here for the past 30 years, I thank Chuck for his tremendous contributions. We wish him all the best in retirement with Susan and his family.”
Commissioner Bud Selig also offered congratulations and thanks to Armstrong.
“I congratulate Chuck Armstrong, a great baseball man, on his upcoming retirement after 28 years of dedicated service to the Mariners franchise as club president,” Selig said in a statement. “Chuck was one of the key leaders who secured the national pastime’s future in the Pacific Northwest, guiding the Mariners as they became a model franchise in a wonderful ballpark. His knowledge and experience on both the baseball and business sides was an asset to our entire sport in numerous ways, including on my Special Committee for On-Field Matters and our International Committee, and he always kept the best interests of our game in mind.”
Armstrong was born and raised in Louisville and earned a bachelor’s of science degree in Industrial Engineering in 1964 from Purdue University. He was recognized as the “Outstanding Senior Man” for his graduating class. From Purdue, he accepted into the Stanford University Law School earning his degree in 1967. He then served more than three years on active duty in the U.S. Navy.
After the Navy, Armstrong joined a Los Angeles law firm in 1970. From 1977-1980, he was president of a leading national furniture manufacturer and importer. From 1980 to 1983, he served as president and chief executive officer of Arnel Management, an Orange County, CA, real estate investment company.
Armstrong and his wife, Susan, make their home in Medina. They have three children: daughters Dorrie (husband Ryan Schneider) and Katherine (husband Mark Hochstetler); and a son, Chuck. The Armstrongs also have four grandchildren: twin granddaughters, Emerson and Mallory, a granddaughter Audrey and a grandson, Matthew.