For these Chicago Angels, dress Right, and look like a ballplayer
By GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
Their motto is likely as old as the concept of baseball uniforms: “Look good, play good.”
B.J. Johnson and Tony Underwood, teammates on the Chicago Angels, subscribe to the premise that one can’t play well if one dresses like a slob. They usually sport the latest looks in spikes, batting gloves, uniforms and anything else related to sartorial distinction on the diamond.
They also like to kid one another about who is the sharper-dressed ballplayer.
“I must say I’m probably the best-dressed ballplayer this side of the Mississippi River,” Underwood said. “Don’t get me wrong, B.J.’s uniform is nice but he is a Nike guy and I’m a Mizuno Man.”
Maybe the uniforms help these forty-something Angels play well. And they do play well in both their home league, the Oak Lawn Roy Hobbs League, and at the World Series.
They first competed against each other in 2006 in the Oak Lawn League. At the time Tony was with the Padres and B.J. was with the Chi-Sox.
They were speedy outfielders in those early days of their sartorial and baseball duels when Underwood hammered a homer over Johnson’s head in left field.
In the words of an old song, whatever you can do I can do better.
A few weeks later Johnson slammed a homer to left over Underwood’s head.
It takes talent and practice to hit. It takes effort and planning to look as good as Johnson and Underwood do when they play baseball.
Johnson said he buys a new pair of cleats every year. Even as a kid he noticed who were the best-dressed big-league players. From his younger days he recalled Ken Griffey, Jr., Jermaine Dye and Frank Thomas as players who made their uniforms a fashion statement.
Underwood said he color coordinates all aspects of his uniform from spikes to hat and even what he called the power titanium necklaces he wears.
His nifty appearance is clearly no accident.
“I tend to iron my uniform,” Underwood said. “I never tell anybody that.”
It’s all part of the look good in order to play well mindset.
“I’m not going out there in wrinkles,” Underwood said.
He’s passing that mindset along to his 11-year-old son, Mariano.
“I tell him, ‘You got to look good, son,’” Underwood said.
Don’t look for Underwood, though, to bring Mariano to the World Series.
“My wife is a school principal,” Underwood said. “She doesn’t believe in missing school.”
These athletes don’t confine themselves to uniform competition. Although Johnson is fast when asked who would win a 60-yard dash between these teammates he admitted it probably wouldn’t be him.
“I’d probably give him the edge.” Johnson said.
Who does Underwood think would win such a race?
“Me,” he said.
When these speedsters are in the outfield together, it’s bad news for other teams.
“The gaps are covered when we’re out there,” Johnson said.
Underwood’s speed once helped him hit for the cycle. In his last at-bat of a game several years ago all he needed was a single. He slammed a shot deep into the outfield for easy extra bases. Underwood, though, stopped at first. He has his cycle but he was also pulled from the game.
“I haven’t got another one,” Underwood said.
They competed for a few years and then in 2012, Johnson called Underwood with a simple message: It’s time.
It was time for these two nattily attired ballplayers to become teammates. But not for long. In 2013 they were again on opposing teams.
That was the first time they played against one another in the World Series. Johnson played with the Ft. Myers Brewers and Underwood was with the Angels.
The Brewers beat the Angels 15-5.
Now, in 2014, eight years after they each homered over the other’s head in the Oak Lawn League they are teaming up in Fort Myers on the Angels.
Before that, though, they squared off in Oak Lawn in September in a best two-out-of three championship for bragging rights for who has the best team.
While the teams competed for the title, perhaps Johnson and Underwood competed for who is the best-dressed ballplayer in the Oak Lawn League.
And maybe for the best dressed on both sides of the Mississippi.