Never underestimate the impact a uniform can have on a young athlete.
Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach Tony Seaman didn't, and as far as anyone really knows, that as much as anything is responsible for the Blue Jays being in the NCAA Division I lacrosse Final Four next weekend at Penn.
To advance to Saturday's semifinals, Hopkins had to win a quarterfinal game last Saturday night at Towson State. Two weeks before, Towson -- the No. 4 seed in the tournament -- had beaten Hopkins, 14-13, at Homewood.
What could No. 5 seed Hopkins do to reverse that? Not a whole lot, since both teams would be using the same players. Unless . . .
The uniforms. The day after the regular-season finale to Towson, Seaman ordered new uniforms. New black uniforms. Black, the color of mean and nasty teams like the Los Angeles Raiders.
Seaman didn't tell his players about it. When they warmed up Saturday in their gray T-shirts, they still didn't know. When they re-entered the locker room for a final word from the coach, they saw the black jerseys.
The rest, as they say, is history. Hopkins played its best game of the year and scored a resounding 15-8 victory.
"I knew when we did not get one of the top four seeds," Seaman said, "that we'd be the visiting team starting with the quarterfinals. Visitors wear dark jerseys in the tournament."
Even some diehard Hopkins partisans in the record Towson State crowd of 7,812 said they had never seen the Blue Jays in black. They just didn't know.
Hopkins' up and coming Division III football team wears black. And long ago, when Hopkins was winning four straight national championships in lacrosse from 1947 through 1950, Hall of Fame coach Howdy Myers dressed his teams in black.
Martin "Skip" Barry, who played goalie for Loyola College against all those Hopkins teams, still remembers the effect the black uniforms had on opponents.
"Lloyd Bunting, in that black uniform, looked like he was 8 feet 6," Barry recalls.
Saturday night Bunting, who was the greatest defenseman of his time, sat at Minnegan Stadium with his onetime Hopkins defense teammate, Tommy Gough. When the Blue Jays ran out on the field in black uniforms, Bunting turned to Gough and said: "We're going to win."
Yesterday I asked Seaman when he's going to wear the black again.
"Saturday," he said.
Of course. Hopkins, peaking at the right time, will face No. 1 seed Syracuse in the 1 p.m. semifinal that day at Franklin Field.
No. 2 North Carolina will meet No. 3 Princeton at 4 p.m.
You can be sure Hopkins will also be in black if it reaches next Monday's NCAA championship game.
* Last year, St. Paul's Mitch Whiteley earned MSA Lacrosse Coach of the Year honors when he led his young Crusaders team to the championship of the toughest high school lacrosse league in America. St. Paul's was supposed to be a year away.
Similarly, Bob Shriver, of Boys' Latin, gets the vote here as 1992's Coach of the Year. BL, which wasn't supposed to be this good, lost two games all season, each by one goal to undefeated St. Paul's. St. Paul's beat Boys' Latin, 9-8, last weekend in the MSA A Conference championship game, marking the end of a season of which both schools and their coaches can be proud.
* The New York Mets lured Bobby Bonilla away from Pittsburgh last winter with a long-term contract worth $29.5 million. At present, the Mets are lagging behind Pittsburgh in the NL East and the Pirates, without Bonilla, are in first place.
You have to wonder if Orioles owner Eli Jacobs, who lives in New York and is a Mets fan, is taking note -- and if all this has a bearing on his thinking regarding the signing of Cal Ripken to a new contract that will be similar to Bonilla's.
* Mickey Tettleton hasn't lost the dry sense of humor he had when he was with the Orioles. When he laid down his first bunt single in five years in the major leagues the other night in Texas, the Tigers catcher said: "It's amazing what you can do in this game if you close your eyes."
* That was quite a group of new members the Maryland Old Timers Soccer Association admitted to its Hall of Fame at Tiffany East: John Linz, Henry Behr, Bernard Myers, Ed Kabara and Matthew Kolb. They're five of the best we've ever had around here.
* In response to an item here about the whereabouts of ex-Orioles radio announcer Jack Wiers, Baltimorean Lee McCardell Kennedy, who was Wiers' neighbor here, informs us that Wiers is now the public relations man for the Hawaii Sports Authority.