"They said I might be able to lift my hand to my mouth, but just barely and only after two years and only if I exercised it properly," he recalled. "They told me I'd have to learn to do everything left-handed."
With characteristic tenacity, Chandler exercised the arm rigorously, and six months later he could lift it over his head. Ultimately, he was able to do everything right-handed, he said, "except serve hard in tennis."
Not Pampered, Never Effete
Born in Los Angeles on Nov. 23, 1927, Chandler was the only son of Norman Chandler and Dorothy Buffum Chandler. Although Halberstam would later say, "No single family dominates any other region of this country as the Chandlers have dominated California," Otis had a far-from-pampered upbringing and was never a man who could be described as effete.
"He used the same tone of voice with the president of the United States and the guy who came to change the lightbulbs in his office," said Donna Swayze, his executive secretary from 1962 to 1988.
John Thomas remembers meeting Chandler — and not knowing who he was — when Chandler took one of his Porsches to the auto dealership where Thomas worked as the parts manager in the late 1960s. The two men introduced themselves as "J.T." and "Oats" (Chandler's longtime family nickname), struck up a conversation about motorcycles and soon began dirt-biking together.
"When I asked what he did, he just said, 'I work at The Times,'." Thomas recalled. "But after about 18 months, I accepted an invitation to his house for dinner, and when I drove up to this huge mansion in San Marino, I thought, 'Holy cow!' When I got inside, I said, 'Well, just what do you do at The Times?'."
Only then did Chandler tell Thomas about himself and his family. Despite the enormous difference in their socioeconomic status, the two remained close friends for more than 30 years.
When Chandler was growing up, he lived with his parents on a 10-acre citrus ranch in Sierra Madre. His father, publisher of The Times from 1944 to 1960, had worked in the fields of the family's Tejon Ranch when he was a boy, so he saw no reason to spare his son from physical labor or spoil him with money.
Otis shoveled fertilizer for the family fruit trees at an early age and was kept on such a modest allowance that even when he went to college, he later recalled, "the most lavish transportation I could afford was half-interest in a secondhand motorcycle."
For a time, when he was young, Chandler rode a bicycle several miles to and from the Polytechnic School in Pasadena.
But he was hardly unaware of his family's powerful position. As a boy, he would stand alongside his father and grandfather at Hollywood Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever) in annual memorials to the victims of a bomb blast that wrecked the Times building in 1910, killing 20 workers.
The explosion was blamed on union militants, and, Otis once said, "I was raised to hate the unions." (He later mellowed on that topic, although he always opposed unionization at The Times.)
The most traumatic experience of Chandler's childhood — one that assumed mythic proportions as he grew toward adulthood — came when he was 8.
In the midst of a horseback riding lesson, he was thrown hard to the ground. His mother scooped him up and rushed to the hospital, steering the car with one hand and holding his hand with the other, frantically searching for a pulse.
When doctors said Otis was dead, Mrs. Chandler wailed, "My son is not dead!" She picked him up and raced to another hospital, screaming all the way there, "Otis is alive, Otis is alive!"
On arrival, she encountered a doctor she knew, and he revived the boy with a shot of adrenaline in the heart.
Recovery was slow but complete, and it was during that period of recuperation, Chandler said many years later, that he "did a lot of thinking and somehow developed my competitiveness."
When he was a little older, he set up his own backyard basketball backboard and high-jump pit, and practiced both sports, by himself, hour after hour. He also began to develop a love of speed and once had to do a stint in traffic school after getting a speeding ticket on his bicycle, he said.