Fast-ball maestro Ryan, who tossed a gopher hall with his autobiography, Throng Heat (1988), rockets one down the center of the plate in this zippy review of baseball pitchers and their foibles. Ryan entered the major leagues as a New York Met, and he dotes on memories of that team's early years as ""the strangest collection of athletes you can imagine."" Although some pitchers he discusses (e.g., Warren Spahn) had careers that stretch back to baseball's Pleistocene Age, Ryan, writing with Herskowitz (coauthor, Cosell, etc.), sticks mostly to hurlers of his own era--a massive chunk of baseball history in itself: Ryan, 45, is about to begin his 25th year as a major-leaguer. He likes to rank and categorize his peers: Best southpaw? Sandy Koufax (""like watching a line of poetry come to life""). Pitcher with the nastiest curveball? Koufax again. Luckiest pitcher? Lew Burdette, who in 1957 won 21 games despite an astronomical E.R.A. Best reliever? Rollie Fingers. Strangely, despite his famed equilibrium, Ryan seems fond of pitchers whom he calls ""obsessed"": Jim Palmer, who attempted a comeback after being elected to the Hall of Fame; recluse Steve Carlton (""the Howard Hughes of baseball""); shipwrecks like 31-game winner and convicted felon Denny McLain. But Ryan dislikes bullies, and he argues fiercely and intelligently for good manners on and off the field. He backs this up by speaking well of just about everyone, picking a quip, quote, or quirk that quick-sketches the pitcher to perfection (Koufax became great only when his hair grayed and he realized that it was ""a signal to get busy""; as a child, McLain worked as a numbers-runner). Sometimes the author startles with the literary equivalent of a Ryan fastball: ""Poor timing: Don Larsen's wife filed for divorce on the day he pitched his perfect game in the World Series."" A power performance from the greatest power pitcher ever.