A grandly digressive history of the national pastime whose focal point is the Giants, late of N.Y.C. Hynd (a Sports Illustrated byliner) leads off with a vivid account of professional baseball's turbulent pre-20th-century years. His chronological narrative gains momentum as well as drama about 1902, when the Giants acquired the services of John J. McGraw. The ultracompetitive Muggsy and three of his four managerial successors--Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Leo Durocher--won 15 pennants before owner Horace Stoneham moved the National League club to San Francisco in 1957. Prior to departure, the franchise was home base for some of the diamond game's finest--and most eccentric--players. At one time or another, to illustrate, Giants' lineups included the likes of Mike Donlin, Frankie Frisch, Shanty Hogan, Carl Hubbell, Rube Marquard, Johnny Mize, Dusty Rhodes, Casey Stengel, and Ross Youngs. Touching all the bases, Hynd recaptures classic moments from the team's eventful past. Covered, for example, are Christy Mathewson's three shutouts against the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1905 World Series, Washington's bad-hop victory in the seven-game series of 1924, the Bobby Thomson homer that snatched the 1951 pennant from Brooklyn's hated Dodgers, and any number of incredible catches by superstar Willie Mays. While the Giants are the author's centerpiece, he does not hesitate to take time out for yarns that bear less than directly on the club's fortunes, e.g., a lengthy discussion of the WW II bali's deadness, plus painstaking inquiries into the origins of such quotes as ""Nice guys finish last."" Fans of all ages will treasure the literate crazy-quilt text for its stylish recall of the summer game's roots. There are to be 40 black-and-white photographs (not seen).