Arthur `Otts' Brandau, 78, City College athlete and men's store owner

January 11, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Arthur "Otts" Brandau, the star center and linebacker at City College in the late 1930s and early 1940s who thrilled spectators with his power and later became owner of a popular men's store, died Monday of Parkinson's disease at Beebe Hospital in Lewes, Del. He was 78.

At City, the longtime Stoneleigh resident lettered in football, wrestling and track. During the glory years of City College football, Brandau played on varsity football teams coached by the legendary Harry Lawrence, who tallied a 54-game winning streak and eight public school championships, including in 1941, the year Mr. Brandau graduated.

Standing a little more than 6 feet tall and weighing 215 pounds in his playing days, Mr. Brandau was Maryland Scholastic Association wrestling champion and in 1993 was inducted into the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame.

"Otts was bigger than anyone else and was a man among boys," said Dick Working, for 21 years head football coach at McDonogh School. Mr. Working and Mr. Brandau grew up together in Waverly and remained lifelong friends.

"Otts was one of the greatest football players City ever had, and they've had lots of great ones," Mr. Working said. "He could throw further and run faster than anyone else and as a wrestler was never defeated. He broke all records at City throwing the javelin and discus ... he was a rarity in those days. He was a giant and the kind of guy you always wanted on your side."

Added Mr. Working: "He had long arms and massive strength and once told me that he worried that if he ever got mad at someone, he `might kill 'em.' He was really a very gentle person."

In 1939, Mr. Brandau met a fortune-teller at the New York World's Fair and who prophesied that he would play football for a college in the South and marry a Southern girl.

After graduating from City, he was recruited to play football at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In 1943, he married Dorothy Lee Cannon, a Southern girl he met at a YMCA dance.

In the 1943 Sugar Bowl, Mr. Brandau played for 56 minutes in 93-degree heat, lost 14 pounds and helped Tennessee beat Tulsa 14-7.

He volunteered for the Army Air Corps and, after washing out of pilot's training, was assigned to special services and played football for the 3rd Air Force in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

After his discharge in 1945, Mr. Brandau was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and, by 1946, was the second-highest-paid lineman on the team, making $300 a game.

The son of a Waverly haberdasher whose store was across from the Waverly Theater, Mr. Brandau and his brother, Jack, worked at the movie house as youngsters.

With borrowed money, the brothers had opened a store at 32nd Street and Greenmount Avenue in the days when playing professional football wasn't enough to make ends meet.

Hoping to play football for the All-America Conference team that had arrived in Baltimore in 1947, Mr. Brandau ended his professional career after the team's coach, Cecil Isabel, told him that because he lived in Baltimore, his salary would be half that of nonresident players.

Mr. Brandau later opened his own store, the Oxford Men's Shop in the 3200 block of Greenmount Ave., which was filled with football memorabilia.

In 1972, he moved the store to a Swiss chalet opposite Towson State University at Burke Avenue and York Road. He closed the business and retired in 1991.

Mr. Brandau helped establish the Northwood Little League and the Northwood Optimist Club baseball teams.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, John A. Brandau of Rehoboth Beach, Del.; a brother, John E. Brandau of Stoneleigh; two sisters, Mary Carol Merrill of Boston and Dorothy Donlin of Montclair, N.J.; and a grandson.

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