World War II nostalgia freaks should go gaga over this one. Mead, a Washington, D.C., journalist and devotee of the summer game has recreated baseball as she was committed in the days of that well-known ""foul-play combination Hitler to Hirohito to Benito."" With all the best athletes swept up in the Armed Forces, one could hardly call it playing. But if DiMaggio, Feller, and Williams were otherwise occupied, Gray, Shepard, and Sipek were ready to step into the breach: Gray, an outfielder, had one arm; Shepard, a pitcher, made do with one leg; and Sipek was deaf. As the war effort seeped up talent, those risible ne'er-do-wells, the St. Louis Browns, advanced. For a decade the Brownies had lived in the shadow of their National League rivals the Cardinals and they were accustomed to losing in a big way. Mead builds up the suspense and the absurdity of the Brownie's revenge. As other teams worsened, the Browns moved up: ""Finally, in 1944, they surfaced like an ugly stump in a draining lake""--capturing the penant. Midway through this generally bright, amusing book Mead gets bogged down in the rosters of players who joined Uncle Sam under varying circumstances. It could still be one of the sports sleepers of the year.