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What is your favorite baseball memory? Why do you love the sport? What Baseball Means To Me (Warner Books, 2002, 270 pages, $34.95) is the largest group of household names to ever write about America's oldest and greatest game.

This official National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum work boasts an astounding 172 essayists - U.S. presidents, actors, writers, and athletes, a businessman here, an ambassador there -- and  was a book of the Month Club, Literary Guild, and History Book Club selection. It also contains more than 230 stunning color and black and white photographs.

When editor Curt Smith asked celebrities across America to reminisce about baseball, they  replied as vividly as their first visit to a park -- fielder crouched, batter cocked, and pitcher draped against the stand -- above all, the surety that there was no place on earth that they would rather be.

Rudolph Giuliani wrote of a baseball life: "Sitting next to my father at Yankee Stadium during my first game, I felt like the luckiest kid in the world." Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather were less palatial, touting long-gone Strutz Field and Buffalo Stadium, respectively. George W. Bush hailed Nolan Ryan. Jimmy Carter etched Game Seven of the 1992 National League playoff: "I can still hear the noise."

What does baseball mean? To composer Marvin Hamlisch, it denoted a Yankees fantasy camp; actor David Birney, a poem to his son; writer Davis Maraniss, dad listening to Harvey Haddix's 12-inning perfect game. To Charley Steiner, baseball gave running home new connotation. To Tim Russert, it meant Cal Ripken's record 2,131st straight game.  Doris Kearns Goodwin writes: "It [baseball] is the most timeless of all sports." This book shows why.

In What Baseball Means To Me, Emeril Lagasse is eight again, reminiscing about his Red Sox. Larry King recalls Jackie Robinson. Patti LuPone recounts catch between her son and Buck O'Neil. George Will notes: "I write about politics, mostly to support my baseball habit." Like baseball, the reader will find this book a habit hard to break.

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