So-so set of original essays by 16 well-known writers on how they fell in love with baseball, edited by a senior editor at Sports Illustrated. First at bat is Roger Angell, wistfully remembering the sport as ``lighter and fresher'' in the 1930's. His father looms large in his memories, underscoring—as do many of the other contributors- -the Field of Dreams conceit of baseball as quintessential glue between father and son. Roy Blount, Jr., describes his fan scrapbook and composes an all-chicken team (Pete LaCock, Chicken Stanley, etc.) from The Baseball Encyclopedia. Mary Cantwell, one of four female contributors, recalls the enchantment of Boston and her young passion for that ``stern, solitary'' Red Sox star, Ted Williams (a disproportionate number of writers, hooked by what Angell calls ``the pleasure-pain principle,'' seem to root for the notoriously doomed Sox). Robert Creamer writes of his whiskey-and-cigar-loving grandfather, a former shortstop. Frank Deford still winces from the memory of growing up in a city without a major league team. Wearing glasses was editor Fimrite's nemesis, until he saw pro players proudly sporting specs. At age 69, Mark Harris still plays slow-pitch ball and declares that ``baseball was my path to self-knowledge.'' Robert Whiting, in the book's least predictable essay, enumerates the oddities of Japanese besuboru. William Kennedy, Jonathan Yardley, J. Anthony Lucas, Stephanie Salter, Nora Ephron, George Plimpton, and Anne Lamott also have their say. As the innings pile up, the charm wears thin: There's skill aplenty here, but it's clear that most writers have no special hold on the game—they're just fans, like anyone else. And how many times must one hear that baseball is God's gift to humanity and the greatest of all literary metaphors? (One wonders how Shakespeare managed without it.) Too much of a much. More intriguing, although probably unsalable, would be an anthology by those who hate the game.
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