Robert W. Creamer was a writer and editor for Sports Illustrated for 30 years.

The past dominates this year's best sports books. When Pride Still Mattered, by David Maraniss (Simon & Schuster), is a fascinating study of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi and his hold on America's imagination. Roger Kahn's A Flame of Pure Fire (Harcourt Brace) is an intelligent look at heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey and the tumultuous 1920s. The original Baltimore Orioles, the "Old Orioles" of the 1890s, are colorfully described by Burt Solomon in Where They Ain't (Free Press). Closer to today is a wry, amusing memoir called This Copyrighted Broadcast (Woodford), by Hank Greenwald, the San Francisco Giants' longtime play-by-play announcer, who, when told to abbreviate a broadcast from Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, shortened the stadium's name to Two Rivers.

Judge and Jury, by David Pietrusza (Diamond Communications), a lengthy biography of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, baseball's first commissioner, has been called "exhaustive and exhausting but essential" to an understanding of the problems that beset big league baseball, from the Black Sox Scandal of 1919 to the arrival of Jackie Robinson. A stunning publication is The Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia (Sotheby's), the catalogue for the multimillion-dollar auction of material that Halper, a part-owner of the New York Yankees, amassed in nearly 50 years of collecting. The three-volume boxed set includes more than 800 pages of photographs, most in color. Admirable, too, is John Thorn's Treasures of Baseball's Hall of Fame (Villard). In urbane, entertaining prose, Thorn guides you through David Jordano's fine photographs of the artifacts squirreled away in Cooperstown and, in doing so, illuminates baseball history.