Roger Angell is a baseball-watcher of nonpareil elegance and discretion, his writing the embodiment of the class and civility of the summer game he monitors with exacting vigilance. This assemblage of his New Yorker reportage covers five seasons: five times the new-sprung hopes of May, the doldrums and catastrophes of July, the chilly October splendors of the World Series. Who else can so perfectly capture Vida Blue's ""coiled-python delivery"" or, say, the aging beauty of Luis Tiant: ""He stands on the hill like a sunstruck archaeologist at Knossos. Regards ruins. Studies sun. Studies landscape. Looks at artifact in hand."" With distaste and regret, Angell makes himself examine the crasser side of baseball as well: the players' strike of '72, the owners' lockout of '76; the indignities of artificial turf, TV control of playing schedules, the designated hitter introduced to World Series play just last year; the ""Cro-Magnon"" satraps who own the game; the pusillanimous Baseball Commissioner who sanctions the profit-making gimmicks. Angell is not the first to notice these affronts; passels of sports writers have deplored the vulgarity which threatens this pristine game of small perfections. Will baseball become the ultimate Superfest, Angell wonders? Will it succumb entirely to the abrasiveness of Howard Cosell and the avarice of officials? It probably will, despite Roger Angell who muses with a nostalgia that never becomes mawkish--""we are trying to conserve something that seems as intricate and lovely as any river valley.