THE BASEBALL CATALOG, by Dan Schlossberg (Jonathan David, $16.95). Like the Sears Roebuck variety, this catalogue includes just about everything you could imagine. Oddments and artword and sprinkled among chapters with such headings as the origins of the game, the parks, superstitions, spring training and, of course, famous faces and big moments. Would you believe that Abe Lincoln was playing baseball when news was brought of his nomination for president? Or that pitchers Urban Shocker and Bobo Newsome practiced voodoo rites before a game? The author's obvious affection for baseball comes through. DECADE OF CHAMPIONS, by Richard Stone Reeves and Patrick Robinson (Fine Arts Enterprises, $67.50). Subtitled "The Greatest Years in the History of Thoroughbred Racing, 1970-1980," this production of race horse portraits is a direct descendant of the 18th-century British genre. Reeves, the artist, follows in the tradiiton of the master, George Stubbs, but the overall result is a weighty disappointment in need of a large coffee table. A cornball prologue and hyped introduction precede an uninspired text that is said to have taken "three years to research and prepare." CHAMPIONS, by Michael Magee and Pat Bayes (Morrow, $29.95). Bayes, a Scottish-born, Toronto-based photographer, has taken remarkably tender color portraits of the 1970s champion thoroughbreds. Most are farm pictures: Allez France and her little filly in Kentucky; nearby, the romping Exceller. The photo of Red Rum out for a walk on an English beach is exquisite. The heart of her work, much of it in striking backgrounds of blues and greens, is neatly divided into four 15-to-20 page "albums." Magee concisely profiles the horses, from Affirmed to Youth. THE AERONAUTS, by Donald Dale Jackson (Time-Life, $12.95). A handsome volume in the Epic of Flight series researched by a small army of Time-Life staffers. "The one mode of travel that has never grown up" is illustrated delightfully by photographs, art and artifacts from the 18th century to the present, such as an 1870s Italian cartoon of a sky filled with oddly shaped, colorful floating objects. Jackson points out that the aura of innocence and imminence of danger combine to keep interest in ballooning up. BALLOONING, by Dick Wirth and Jerry Young (Random House, $20). Subtitled "The Complete Guide to Riding the Winds," this account by Wirth, a pilot, designer and manufacturer, combines the private pleasures and competitive sport of ballooning. A hot air celebration, it also contains such practical information as how to land without having to say you're sorry, and a history, with sketches, of all the pertinent craft back to the 1780s and the French brothers Montgolfier. Young's photos, from above and below, the Alps to the Arctic Circle, capture the grace and serenity of ballooning and the fashionably bright colors floating overhead. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MOTORCYCLING, by George Bishop (Perigee, $16.95). All aspects of life on two wheels are here: The devlopment of the machines; the makes; the riders (Sprouts, Elder, Franz Biber and Heinz Luthringshauser, to name a few); essays on mechanics and customizing; a glossary from "absolute track record" to "Zenith," a British brand of carburetor. Once an alternative for those too poor to get out of the rain and into an automobile, motorcycle riding is now a preferred choice of transportation and pleasure; 30 million machines are in use. A thorough collection of photos is also included, although the essence of the sport's popularity is never made clear. Is it that a cyclist feels psychologically in control; small but invulnerable; perfectly mated; free to enjoy the fast-changing scene and smell of the countryside, and, in a race, know what power is? BRUCE DAVIDSON: WORLD CHAMPION OF EVENTING, with Sally O'Connor, Akhtar Hussein and Caroline Silver (Houghton Mifflin, $21.50). The horse sport of eventing is a combination of competitions over a three-day period: day one, dressage; day two, speed and endurance, highlighted by cross country, and day three, stadium jumping. This is Davidson's story from the time he discovers his horse, Irish Cap, to his world championship, and the recent success of the United States in the Three-Day. It succeeds in giving the sense of that long, sweet ordeal from first shaky outing to the last immense hurdles in the stiffest competition. THE WORLD OF FALCONRY, by H. Schlegel and J.A. verster de Wulverhorst (Vendome Press, $60). The history of the ancient art of falconry is elegantly presented in this illustrated work based largely on a treatise by two 19th-century falconers. The treatise, delightfully informative and a pleasure to read, includes the origins and language of falconry, the falconer's tools, the birds and the methods of training. An introduction to Arabian falconry has been added, as well as a report on an international conference on falconry, that, if anything, is too brief.
THE INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF SPORTS AND GAMES, by J.A. Cuddon (Schocken, $29.95). If it was ever played, it's included in these 870 pages of solid text.Falconry, for example, gets more than six pages. A staple such as basketball is followed shortly by chariot-racing, which Homer covered with "a keen sporting journalist's eye" in The Iliad . The book ranges from early bowling in Egypt (5200 B.C.) to Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon; terms from ABA to Zwischenzug are defined. The Oxford-educated author, an authority in medieval and renaissance literature, is versed in the poke check as well.