For baseball fans who admire fine writing as much as a home-run swing, two new collections will be at the top of the spring roster. Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: My Lifelong Passion for Baseball (Norton, $24.95, 320 pages, ISBN 0393057550) by the late Stephen Jay Gould is a wonderful collection of essays and book reviews the author contributed to The New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair and The New York Times. Reminiscing about old players and new theories, about the use of statistics and the blue melancholy of being a Red Sox fan, the author writes about the game with warmth and authority. As baseball scribe for The New Yorker, Roger Angell has been writing about the game for more than 40 years. Game Time: A Baseball Companion spans four decades and collects the best of his work. He has seen the game morph from a "plantation mentality," in which the owners called all the shots, to today's sport where, it could be said, the inmates are running the asylum. With his ability to take the reader below the surface, Angell gains access to old idols like Tom Seaver, as well as today's stars, including Pedro Martinez and Barry Bonds. In his hands, these players are more than just numbers in a box score; they're men with depth and soul. Angell's thoughtful prose will warm baseball fans even on the coldest days of the off-season. Ron Kaplan

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