One of spring's most dependable showers is of baseball books. For anyone lacking tickets to Opening Day, April 6, consolation will be available in many pages of text and tintype.
One example: That photographic history of 20th century baseball, "The Image of Their Greatness," by Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig (Crown, paperback, $15) is out in a new edition. Proceeding decade by decade, it now includes the '80s. And, in pictures that now total 655, who appears most often? It's still Babe Ruth (12 times). Jackie Robinson is in seven times; Joe DiMaggio and Casey Stengel, six; John McGraw, five; Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Brooks Robinson, four each. And Cal Jr.? Well, at least it's a full-pager.
One of the twoscore former stars interviewed by Cynthia J. Wilber in "For the Love of the Game" (Morrow, $22) is Al Kaline. His account of growing up in South Baltimore, and as a teen-ager being a roster player for three teams simultaneously, belongs in the municipal chronicles.
But if what you seek is a book as gift, for someone special, then try "Baseball: The Perfect Game," photographs (in black-and-white) by Danielle Weil, text by David Halberstam and Peter Richmond (Rizzoli, $29.95). Six of Ms. Weil's eloquent images were made at Memorial Stadium. You may ache a little.
In "Unlocking the Secrets of Time: Maryland's Hidden Heritage" (Jean B. Russo, editor; Maryland Historical Society, paperback, $6.95), scholars walk their way through several uncertainties, explaining "the pursuit and use of evidence . . . to solve a historical puzzle." For instance, what was the origin of the banner that now is Maryland's flag? In other examples, the lives of St. Mary's City residents in the 1600s, of Kempton miners and Baltimore cannery workers in the 1900s, are reconstructed. Throughout, illustrations show what historians work with and draw conclusions from.
It's springtime, and fiction is abloom. Off in the west, J. M. Johnston of Carroll County offers computer, conspiracy, college campus (and lots of conversation) in "Biting the Wall" (Acme Press, Westminster, $15.95). As to category, it's a romp.
No stated geography, in this intrigue of mainframe circuitry, espionage and nifty words, but the initials of Wilbur Moody College will not be lost on the book readers of Western Maryland College.
Off to the west, William Elliot Hazelgrove mentally still roams the settings of his formative years. Now a Chicagoan, he invokes Baltimore and Ocean City by name in "Ripples" (Pantonne Press, Chicago; paperback, $5.95). The summer before college, spent by and on the beach, his hero Brenton Heathersfield comes up against love and death and the meaning of existence. Questions, answers, growing up.
Chatter: There is spring in Colby Rodowsky's step, or steps: She will have two books coming out: "Jenny and the Grand Old Great-Aunts" for ages 6 to 9, and "Lucy Peale," a young-adult novel. . . . Two signed, first-edition copies of Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" are featured in Baltimore Book Co.'s next auction, April 27, 6:30 p.m., Quality Inn, Towson. . . . "Riddles for a Naked Sailor" is Mary Azrael's latest collection of poems, with ink-wash paintings by Howard Kaye (Stonevale Press, Burkittsville 21718, $10). . . . Harry G. Summers Jr. of Bowie is more familiar as magazine and newspaper byline, commenting on military matters, but the retired colonel and Army War College instructor also has a large book audience. His "On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War" now has been followed by "On Strategy II: A Critical Analysis of the Gulf War" (Dell, paperback, $4.99).