Jim Otto, Hall of Fame Raiders Center, Is Dead at 86


The injuries were sometimes horrendous. In a 1971 preseason game, he snapped the ball for a field-goal attempt and, as he recalled, “the right side of our line collapsed on my right knee.” He said an arthrogram disclosed five ligament tears, and he was told his season and maybe his career were over.

The team orthopedist said immediate surgery was needed. Otto refused. He returned to training camp, put on his uniform and went back on the field. A horrified John Madden, then the coach, ordered him off. He stayed and played, and then he had the surgery.

In 1975, at age 37, Otto was starting his 16th pro season. In the second week of training camp his right knee gave way, and before the season began he retired and became the Raiders’ business manager for two years. He rejoined the organization in 2002, selling luxury boxes, making speeches and organizing reunions of former players.

As a businessman, he earned a small fortune from Burger King franchises in the Oakland area and from liquor stores, walnut orchards and real estate.

His survivors include his wife, Sally; a son, Jim Jr., who played football at Utah State; and 14 grandchildren. His stepdaughter, Jennifer, died of a blood clot in 1997.

Otto’s wife spent much of his life fearing that he might die, and she served, The East Bay Times reported in 2007, as “the ultimate nurse.” Otto told Frontline that losing his leg did not bother him, except for the fact that he worried about whether Sally would love a “guy with one leg.” Then she told him, “I didn’t marry you for that leg anyway.”

Frank Litsky, a longtime sportswriter for The Times, died in 2018.



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