. . . and they played in New York. Lately of New Jersey with a lackluster record the football Giants have seen better days, and New York Times reporter Eskenazi reconstructs them with gusto. From the start, pro football had a touch of ""country"" and some of the zany beginnings are gleefully recounted. In 1925 T. J. Mara was sweet-talked into investing $500 in a New York team that was to include part-timers Jim Thorpe ($250 per game) and Dr. Joseph Alexander (medicine during the week). But the Giants gained their stature in the 1954-63 period with a superlative coaching staff (Howell, Landry, Lombardi) and an all-star roster. More than a seasonal replay, this presents cameos of the first string--many now coaching or broadcasting--and the unofficial, unforgettable figures on the scene like Richie the Scalper ($500 on a typical Sunday). Fans will remember the proud move from the Polo Grounds to Yankee Stadium, the scrambles for tickets, the impact of television on four-figure salaries and Connecticut motels. Even when wearing his heart on his sleeve, Eskenazi keeps his helmet on--first down and goal to go.