From John McGraw to Reggie Jackson, with a lot of grainy newsreels in the background: a barrage of non-stop nostalgia and rhetorical gush. ""Nothing less than a social history of our National Pastime,"" the blurb intones, but actually it's a lot less. Honig surveys only superstars (Mathewson, Wagner, Cobb, Hornsby, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, et al.) and legendary moments (""Say it ain't so, Joe,"" Lou Gehrig's retirement, Ted Williams' last home run). He does try to put baseball in a social context, but mostly through a sometimes banal, sometimes bathetic juxtaposition of sports and real life (1927 is marked by Lindbergh's flight and the Dempsey-Tunney ""long count,"" by the Sacco-Vanzetti case and Babe Ruth's 60 HRs). Worst of all, Honig treats the National Pastime as cosmic drama: ""In 1941 these two towering midcentury American heroes""--DiMaggio with his 56 game hitting streak, Williams with his .406 average--""wrote it in flames that have left a permanent glow on the baseball horizon."" (Or: ""Koufax alone left at high noon, a Hamlet leaving in mid-soliloquy."") Honig knows his material, and his narrative rattles along fluently and vividly, with the proverbial cast of thousands. But there's too much color, too many metaphors gone haywire (""the jungles of Iowa,"" ""the tom-tom beats of this planet-sized opportunity"")--even given Honig's undeniable gusto.