Around the batting cages this spring, he was one of the most talked-about acquisitions of the off-season. Whitey Herzog buttonholed him for trade suggestions, which is a little like having Dwight Gooden ask you how you hold your fastball. He is Peter Gammons, and he has returned to SI to open what might well become baseball's most widely read notebook.

Inside Baseball (page 82) will be a grab bag of ballpark minutiae and not-so-minutiae, the kind of intelligence Gammons had provided the readers of The Boston Globe since 1972, excluding his stint with SI from 1976 to '78. "I couldn't pass up the opportunity to transfer what I was doing to a forum the size of SI," he says. "Besides, I'm still working for a Mulvoy." Tom Mulvoy, managing editor of The Globe, is the brother of our managing editor, Mark Mulvoy.

Gammons, 41, was born April 9, 1945, seven days after Reggie Smith, and a day after the Red Sox beat the Yankees 10-5 in an exhibition game in Atlantic City. He grew up in Groton, Mass. as a Red Sox fan. That's why the story that begins on page 30 was a labor of love for Gammons who brought together two of the best hitters in the game—Wade Boggs of the Bosox and Don Mattingly of the Yankees—for a talk with one of the alltime greats, Ted Williams. Says Boggs, "Peter was definitely into it. The dinner was something he had dreamed of doing, and the evening turned out to be outstanding."

They might still be talking, but we have deadlines to meet. In an issue with batting as its theme, we have also profiled Boggs, Mattingly and the Padres' Tony Gwynn. Senior writer Craig Neff takes a look at the bumper crop of rookie batsmen, and writer-reporter Hank Hersch presents a lively anecdotal history of the baseball bat itself, without which none of this would have been possible. Author WP. Kinsella, whose 1982 novel Shoeless Joe cracked the lineup of the best in baseball fiction, adds to his reputation with an excerpt (page 110) from his latest novel, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy (Houghton Mifflin, $16.95).

Our staff has once again ranked the teams from 1 to 26 in our annual scouting reports, and with the help of The 1986 Elias Baseball Analyst (Collier Books, $12.95), we provide you with the lowdown on the key players from all the teams.

And we would like to welcome back our newest player.

PHOTORONALD C. MODRAAfter an eight-year absence, off-season acquisition Gammons is back in our rotation.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)