NONFICTION

Facing the Wall: Americans at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial , text by Duncan Spencer, photographs by Lloyd Wolf (Collier/MacMillan, $9.95; hardcover, $19.95). They come to that gash in the ground for many reasons: to weep, to pay tribute, to satisfy some curiosity. All of them are touched by the experience, and Duncan Spencer and Lloyd Wolf have recorded their words and their faces with care. This handsome book is scheduled to be published officially on Memorial Day.

Honey Russell: Between Games, Between Halves, by John Russell (Dryad Press, $7.95; hardcover, $14.95). Honey Russell, who played professional basketball from age 16 to 44, is perhaps best remembered as coach of the Boston Celtics during the '40s. But Russell saw more than the development of a single team. He witnessed the development of American sports during the middle of this century -- as a college basketball coach (Seton Hall won 300 games under his direction), barnstorming during the '30s with small-time teams, sometimes even umpiring baseball games. This somewhat rambling biography by his son, a college professor, is full of colorful anecdotes, memories of time-outs and half-times, and genuine affection for a man who devoted his life to the best in sport.

Once Upon a Time, by Gloria Vanderbilt (Fawcett, $4.50). Gloria Vanderbilt made headlines in her childhood as her aunt and her mother fought for her custody in the New York courts. The story has been well chronicled in books and in the media of its day. Now Vanderbilt herself tells the tale from her point of view, and it is an affecting story. Vanderbilt's account of her love for the nanny who brought her up, and from whom she was separated just when she needed her most, is a sad commentary on the old adage that money can't buy love or happiness.

Lives and Letters: Queen Victoria in Her Letters and Journals, a selection by Christopher Hibbert (Penguin, $6.95). England's most domestic queen is best shown for what she was in sources like these -- the notations she made about the comings and goings of loved ones, their health, their preferences, and hers, the letters she wrote to her married children, to statesmen and friends. Her anguish at the death of Albert is keenly expressed, her protectiveness towards her children constant.

MYSTERY The Family Tomb and The Crack in the Teacup, by Michael Gilbert (Perennial Library, $3.50). An English lawyer (a solicitor, to be precise), Michael Gilbert is also a versatile wri the Baltimore Orioles, but it is also about a great deal more. Okrent uses the game as a framework within which to examine how a professional baseball team really works, in the front offices and behind the scenes as well as on the field. Though the actual game tends to get lost amid all the background material, that material is what makes the book interesting and revealing: how scouting systems are run, how players and the press coexist, how a team in a relatively small city manages to eke by in the age of elephantine player salaries -- Okrent delves into all this and much more, and in so doing provides the reader with a further appreciation of baseball's infinite complexities.

Veeck As in Wreck, by Bill Veeck, with Ed Linn (Signet, $3.95). Bill Veeck, who died last year at the age of 71 after fighting diseases and injuries that would have killed most people at a far younger age, was the most innovative owner in baseball history and, by a wide margin, the funniest. His autobiography, first published in 1962, is a baseball classic and its reissue is therefore a welcome event, all the more so since Ed Linn has appended an affectionate afterword. Here are all of Veeck's wonderful stories: his battles against the game's Neanderthal owners, his shoestring operations with the various teams he owned, his running war with Commissioner Ford Frick -- and, of course, the day he sent a midget up to bat. His story is packed with life and laughter from first page to last.

The Baseball Reader, edited by Charles Einstein (McGraw-Hill, $4.95). Thirty years ago Charles Einstein produced The Fireside Book of Baseball, an anthology of memorable writing about the national pastime; a second volume came along two years later, a third in 1968, and finally a boxed set of all three. But the Fireside books gradually went out of print, just in time to miss the sudden surge of interest in baseball that apparently was set off by the remarkable 1975 World Series. So in 1980 Einstein collected what he regarded as the best pieces from the three volumes in The Baseball Reader, a paperback edition of which has now been issued. Though every admirer of good baseball writing will object that such-and-such a piece is not included, it is actually remarkable that Einstein has managed to get so much of enduring merit into these 500 pages. Put The Baseball Reader next to the portable radio and you're set for the season.