Every man, to update Dr. Johnson, thinks meanly of himself for not having been a jock, and poet-journalist Hall is no exception. In this generally appetizing baker's dozen he reminisces about his own athletic ineptitude (in everything but ping-pong), admires stars like Dock Ellis and Kevin McHale, and philosophizes about sport: baseball is a ""country""; basketball is ""a show, a circus, a miracle continually demonstrating the Newtonian heresy that muscle is lighter than air""; football is ""a psychodrama, brothers beating up on brothers, murderous, bitter, tender, homosexual. . ."" Unfortunately for this collection, it begins with the title piece, which is clearly Hall's best. In March, 1973 he spent nine days in spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This bit of Plimptonesque masochism (Hall was 44, had an ample beer belly, and was totally out of shape) serves as the core of a funny nostalgic essay on the book's overriding theme that baseball links American males in all sorts of ways, but especially across the generations. While Hall is destroying his body in the work-outs, amusing his temporary teammates, and having the time of his life, he thinks back to his father, now dead, who may have (family traditions differ) abandoned his semi-pro baseball career to support his wife and baby Donald. He remembers taking his son to Tiger Stadium--and dropping a home run ball that hit him in the hands. And so on. Subsequent pieces muse on ""Baseball and the Meaning of Life,"" hymn the praises of Fenway Park, compare the virtues of baseball writers (Roger Angell wins first prize), review Hall's career as a ""teenage sportscribe,"" lambastes the violence of pro football, etc. They're good, but not up to the level of ""Fathers Playing Catch with Sons."" Still, by any standard, a knowledgeable, affectionate amble around the diamond.