What could have been a three-run homer ends up a strikeout in this disappointing collective biography of contemporary players, managers, and teams from the collaborators behind The Macmillan Book of Baseball Stories (1993). While their hearts are definitely in the right place (not just in the matter of baseball--they also sing the praises of librarians and dwell on the joys of research), the authors let their fans down with clichâ€šd phrasing--""When Mo [Vaughn] talked, they listened. He spoke the language of hope""; obvious didacticism--""You need talent. You need hard work. And you need a little luck""; and sentimentality--""for Cal Ripken baseball was much more than a job. It was his love. Ever since he was a kid, he couldn't wait for the next game to begin."" Readers looking for the stories-beyond-the-headlines of these genuine heroes--including the cheery ""designated fireplug,"" Kirby Puckett, the remarkable Alou family, the one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott--will find little here to take home.