John Underwood, Stylish Sportswriter and Author, Dies at 88

John Underwood, a trendy author at Sports Illustrated for practically 1 / 4 century whose rollicking account of a fishing journey in Florida with baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams led to their collaborations on two extremely regarded books, died on April 12 at his dwelling in Miami. . He was 88.

His spouse, Donna Underwood, confirmed the demise, however didn’t cite a particular trigger.

Mr. Underwood joined Sports Illustrated in 1961 in the course of the journal’s decades-long heyday, and would work alongside different star writers like Frank Deford, Mark Kram, Dan Jenkins, Roy Blount Jr., Jack Olsen and William Nack.

He specialised in overlaying faculty soccer, together with its shady facet, however he additionally wrote about boxing, golf, baseball and skilled soccer, in addition to the influence of playing on sports activities, gamers and followers. In 1982, he was the ghostwriter for an article concerning the former NFL participant Don Reese that exposed that he and many different gamers had used cocaine and how the drug “now controls and corrupts the sport as a result of so many gamers are on it.”

Mr. Underwood cast a reference to Mr. Williams after they fished for tarpon off the Florida Keys in 1967. Mr. Williams, one in every of baseball’s best gamers and the final within the main leagues to hit .400, was additionally an professional fisherman, then in his seventh 12 months of retirement from baseball.

“He brings to fishing the identical hard-eyed depth, the identical unbounded capability for scientific inquiry that he dropped at hitting a baseball,” Mr. Underwood wrote.

Describing Mr. Williams in motion, he added, “The fish exploded into the air. Sawhack-whack-whack. The tarpon jumped seven instances, swooshing spectacularly within the air as Williams performed it, labored it, reeled, stored the strain on. All the time, he was instructing us, telling us what he was doing, advising Charley when to shoot and at what lens opening he would possibly use.”

Their camaraderie on the journey prompted Mr. Underwood, at the suggestion of a Sports Illustrated editor, to ask Mr. Williams if he would comply with let Mr. Underwood helped him write his autobiography. The undertaking started as a five-part collection within the journal, which they expanded into the e-book “My (*88*) at Bat: The Story of My Life” (1969), a New York Times greatest vendor.

Mr. Underwood wrote Mr. Williams’ autobiography after the 2 went fishing collectively and turned associates.

It was adopted in 1971 by “The Science of Hitting,” an tutorial guide that turned a Bible to many main leaguers, together with the a number of batting champions Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs. In 2002, Sports Illustrated ranked it No. 86 on its checklist of the highest 100 sports activities books of all time.

In his preface to “The Science of Hitting,” Mr. Underwood described Mr. Williams’s ardour for an illustrator to painting the strike zone as he envisioned it — “stuffed by equal rows of circles depicting what sort of batting common a participant might count on swinging at balls in every of these areas. He mentioned he would provide the figures himself.”

The two books with Mr. Williams was the primary of Mr. Underwood’s collaborations with sports activities figures. He labored with Bear Bryant, the storied coach of the University of Alabama soccer group, whom he had lined extensively, on his autobiography in 1974. He adopted up with Alvin Dark, the much-traveled baseball supervisor, in 1980, and then with the father-and-son NFL quarterbacks Archie and Peyton Manning in 2000.

Reviewing “Bear: The Hard Life and Good Times of Alabama’s Coach Bryant,” Jonathan Yardley of The Miami Herald praised Mr. Underwood for cajoling Mr. Bryant “to speak freely, and in so doing, to disclose himself maybe greater than he meant.”

John Warren Underwood was born on Nov. 25, 1934, in Miami. His father, Edward, was a vacationer boat captain. His mom, Sarah Kathryn (Russell) Underwood, was a homemaker. While in highschool, John started writing often for The Miami News, and whereas learning English at the University of Miami, he turned a employees author at The Herald. He graduated with a bachelor’s diploma in 1956 and stayed at The Herald till he moved to Sports Illustrated 5 years later.

While at the journal, he additionally wrote “The Death of an American Game: The Crisis in Football” (1979), which grew out of a collection about accidents and violence in soccer, and “Spoiled Sport” (1984), about how huge cash and tv had sapped the enjoyable out {of professional} sports activities.

“I used to be about to say I’ve misplaced it, this style for sport, however I have not,” he wrote. “It was taken from me — from all of us.”

He left Sports Illustrated in 1985 for full-time freelancing, sad that the enhancing at the journal had change into, as he wrote in his resignation letter, “the worst I’ve ever encountered.”

“Few have been stunned by Underwood’s exit,” Michael MacCambridge wrote in “The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated” (1997). “Many felt he had misplaced his love for the video games way back.”

In addition to his spouse, Donna (Simmons) Underwood, he’s survived by their daughter, Caroline Burman, and son, Joshua; his daughters, Lori Gagne, Leslie Cahill and Kathryn Justice, who is called DeeDee, and his son, John Jr., from his marriage to Beverly Holland, which resulted in divorce; 12 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Williams’s demise in 2002 prompted Mr. Underwood to write down “It’s Only Me: The Ted Williams We Hardly Knew” (2005), a memory about their friendship, which grew from their first journey in 1967 into searching and fishing holidays world wide.

“He considered Ted as an uncle,” Ms. Underwood mentioned in a cellphone interview. “And ‘It’s solely me’ is what Ted would say when he known as. John or I’d reply the cellphone and he’d say, ‘It’s solely me.’”

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