Philly's Finest

WE.B. GRIFFIN -- who has gained renown for the authentic detail of his novels about military life -- is adding another arrow to his quiver. He is going to be writing about the police, too. He has just delivered the first volume to Putnam/Jove in a new series tentatively entitled "The Policeman."

"I'm no good with titles," says Griffin (an Alabama resident and former Army sergeant whose real name is Bill Butterworth). "But 'The Policeman' is what we're calling it for now." The series is based on the Philadelphia Police Department. Griffin spent some time in Philadelphia researching the book and had the full cooperation of police officials. The series, planned for six volumes, will begin in 1974 and bring the department up to current times.

"Normally, police departments just give you the official tour," says Griffin of his stay in Philadelphia. "All sweetness and light and good works. But they really showed me what police work was about. It was a revelation to someone like me who only encounters a policeman when he gets a speeding ticket. I came to admire cops. They're interesting people doing a very tough job.

"One of the people I met was a Captain Dooley. Harrison Ford stayed with him when he was preparing to make the movie The Witness, which concerned the Philadelphia police. Dooley's quite a guy and better-looking than Ford. When the movie came out, Ford sent him a poster, but with Dooley's face pasted in where Ford's was supposed to be."

Fans of Griffin's military writing need not despair about his new departure. He will be continuing his military series as well. In fact, two of his service novels are coming out in September. One of them, The New Breed, is in effect a continuation of his six "Brotherhood of War" books about the Army, but goes back in time. "It takes place in 1964," says Griffin, "when a lot of Europeans and some Americans were trapped in Stanleyville in the Congo and in danger of being eaten -- literally. Sixteen hundred Belgian paratroopers, plus some U.S. Green Berets and Marines, were sent in to rescue them."

The original six books in "The Brotherhood of War" series each had the title of a military rank. "But when we reached The General," says Griffin, "we ran out of ranks, so this is a new start." The New Breed is the first book in the series to be published as a hardback, and that causes Griffin a bit of concern. "I wonder if my readers, who are used to buying a paperback, will shell out $17? But I made sure the publishers are gambling with their own money, not mine. I can't eat prestige."

Griffin's other military novel in September is The Corps Book II, the second in his saga of the U.S. Marines. It will be published by Jove, a paperback arm of Putnam. The Corps Book I: Semper Fi started just before World War II and brought his characters through the early days of the war. "Corps II," says Griffin," centers about the Makin Island raid in the Pacific. It was our first victory in the war."

Griffin gave two reasons for his switch into police writing. "First, I was concerned that I would get stale if I just wrote military novels. This will give me a change of pace. I'll do two military books and then one in the police series. Second, Tom Clancy has made so much money -- millions -- with his two military books, The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising, that I figure everybody and his brother will be getting into the field. I want to have something in reserve. After all, this is my living."

Grid Stats

THERE HAS been an explosion in recent years in the availability of sports statistics. The computer has made possible the storage and permutation of numbers as never before, and there seems to be a cadre of fans out there -- often computer people, engineers or scientists -- who revel in throwing stats around. The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1987 (Ballantine, $8.95) is the most notable publishing success in the field.

Until now, most of the attention has been focused on baseball, but there is now some action in football statistics, notably Football by the Numbers by George Ignatin and Allen Barra, whose first edition appeared last year. They are back again with the 1987 edition (Prentice-Hall, $8.95), and just in time, because while you've been catching the breezes at Rehoboth Beach, the Redskins have been practicing in the heat, and are about to take the field for the new season. So let's take a look at what Ignatin and Barra have to say about them.

First, please note that Ignatin and Barra aren't heavily into predictions. Their metier is the analysis of what has already happened. They don't try to factor in, for example, the impact of the draft on a team. At any rate, these number-crunchers have high praise for the Redskins. According to their stats, the Hogs & Company were the fourth best team in football. But in their commentary on their results, they argue that the Skins were actually the second best team in pro football, after the Super Bowl champions, the Giants.

Here is their logic: Except for their two regular-season meetings, the Giants and Redskins were "precisely the same teams, in terms of effectiveness, relative to the rest of the NFL." Leaving out those two games (which the Redskins lost), both teams were 12-2 against virtually the same opponents. Both were 1-1 against the Cowboys, with similar total scores. The Giants were 2-0 against the Eagles -- so were the Redskins. The Giants beat the Los Angeles Raiders by five points, Washingtonbeat them by four. The Giants defeated the New Orleans Saints by three points, the Redskins' margin of victory against them was eight. The argument goes on and on, but the similarities are remarkable.

So why didn't the Redskins end up in the Super Bowl? Ignatin and Barra argue that in the clubs' three meetings, there was a failure of imagination by Washington's coach Joe Gibbs. "Gibbs is a great coach," they say, "maybe with Bill Walsh {of San Francisco} the premier offensive strategist of the '80s. But he lives or dies with his game plan; like Don Shula {of the Miami Dolphins}, his teams never seem to be able to adjust and change once their game plan has proven deficient." In the games against the Giants, they say, Gibbs thought he could establish a running attack, based mainly on George Rogers, against the best rushing defense in the league. "And each time that strategy failed and the Skins lost, Gibbs seemed to think that somehow it would work better next time."

According to Ignatin and Barra, the typical pattern in NFL victories is that the winning team scores first with the pass, builds a first-half lead, and then uses a strong pass rush and pass defense to shut down the other team's passing game. "Then," they say, "you use your running game to keep the clock going, to use up valuable playing time . . . No one in the NFL wins with running. They run because they're winning."

Got that? Okay, let's play ball.

In the Margin

THERE'S A new magazine in that harsh, cruel world out there. It's called Righting Words: The Journal of Language and Editing. In addition to those with a general interest in language, it's aimed at the long-suffering community of copy editors, who take the dross of writers and turn it into gold. Or so they allege. The magazine comes out six times a year. The first issue ventured forth in January past, with a lead article on the vexed and much-debated subject of rendering Arabic into English. The second issue featured a piece on electronic dictionaries, and the third an article on the preposition. Righting Words costs $24 a year. The address is P.O. Box 6811, F.D.R. Station, New York, NY 10150.

Vintage Books, a paperback division of Random House, has made a splash over the last several years with its line of novels called Vintage Contemporaries. Now it has added a nonfiction series along the lines of Vintage Contemporaries. Called Vintage Departures, it will specialize in nontraditional travel books and personal adventures. The first six titles are: Coyotes by Ted Conover, which describes the writer's crossing of the Mexican border disguised as an illegal alien; From Heaven Lake by Vikram Seth, recounting a hitchhiking trip from New Delhi to Tibet; Making Hay by Verlyn Klinkenborg, a tale of the harvest in mid-America; Fast Company by Jon Bradshaw, about professional gambling; Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O'Hanlon, a humorous travel story; and Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman, about a young American in China.