His right name was Frank X. Farrell, and I guess the X stood for 'Excuse me.' Because he never pulled a play, good or bad, on or off the field, without apologizin' for it."" Ring Lardner's ""Alibi Ike"" is one of a dozen sporting short stories insisting that life is not a game -- it ""has no nice complete set of rules."" Timed for today is Jack London's remote Mexican revolutionary, scrubbing floors and fighting increasingly ugly gringoes to obtain rifles for the Junta. Also, the casual rigidity of St. Clair McKelway's ping pong player revealing a lifetime of seemingly innocent competitiveness that drove a son to suicide. Several encounter the nether side: a young fighter's second pro and first thrown bout with a dreary down-and-outer; a. fifteen-year jai alai Monarch, realizing the shady implications of Iris Woman's bet against him, refusing to capitulate his championship; the irony of ""heart"" in Samuel Elkin's ""The Ballplayer."" Others examine the precarious relationship between youth and age (especially seen in a bitter tennis match between father and son), and for the aesthetic athletic there's a bear hunt from Faulkner that hits a humane target. Charged.