As a kid, the appearance on the newstand of Street & Smith's Baseball Yearbook was an encouraging sign that spring -- and baseball -- were steadily creeping closer. I picked up the latest annual of S&S, now in its 66th year, last weekend, and was pleased to see how the Sox are ticketed for a first-place berth in the AL East. Last year, S&S correctly picked the respective 1-2-3 finish of the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Sox.

Meanwhile, besides having the benefit of not being an ax-grinding Sox-phobe, like his New York Times colleague Murray Chass, George Vecsey (the author, with Loretta Lynn, of Coal Miner's Daughter) has written a short and completely enjoyable history of baseball. It covers all the bases, if you'll pardon the pun, and is a pleasure for novices and old-timers alike.

Lastly, you've got to hand it to A-Rod, for not knowing when to keep his mouth shut.

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