If you can already name the ten events which make up the decathlon - and name the winners since 1915 - you may not need this book. But for those with a nonspecific hankering after sports information, who want to learn the general rules and characteristics of games as well as the names of their most famous competitors, the 543 pages of this book will fill a lot of needs. The predominant national manias - football, baseball, basketball and the like - are represented at length (the football section alone comprises 37 pages of slender type). But so are billards, paddleball, curling, jai alai, ice-boating and steeplechase, to name a few, along with related topics such as stadium design and drug use, and the odd amusing fact here and there. In the section on dog racing, we learn that the "lure" after which the sporting canines run, invented in 1937, "is made of spring steel, covered with white imitation sheepskin, and it has two large red 'eyes,' not to fool the dogs, but to give the spectators the illusion that the dogs are chasing a real rabbit." For those of the historical persuasion, there is evidence that pigeon racing began "when the electric telegraph came into extensive use," and homing pigeons "became obsolete for that purpose and were converted to racing instead." And some facts are distinctly contemporary, as in the revelation that the big problems with nylon or polyproplene artificial turf are "mustard stains from hot-dog wrappers, bubble gum, and cigarette burns." Whatever your sport, this book seems to be the name of the game. (McGraw-Hill, $27.50)