Who was the American League MVP in 1927? What did Milton Berle once say about Howard Cosell? And what in the world is Sphairistike?

You can find the answers to these and a zillion or so other sports questions in the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED 1992 Sports Almanac, which arrived at bookstores and newsstands last week. This is our first annual almanac, and we think that the 688-page fact-packed armchair companion is worth many times its weight in beer and potato chips for sports fans.

There are essays summarizing the major sporting events of the past year, all the important statistics from 1991, and a section of capsule biographies on some 500 prominent people in sports. For good measure, there are dozens of little boxes sprinkled throughout that contain anecdotes, They Said Its and other nuggets of information that make our almanac a book you can sit down and read as well as one you can use for reference. All this for $8.95.

"You want to know who was the best, who won—it's in there," says Joe Marshall, SI's editorial director for books, slipping on his salesman's hat. "People should get this book and keep it next to the TV set. Say you're watching the Kentucky Derby, and you want a little historical perspective. Well, you can turn to page 370 and read an essay by William F. Reed, and then you can check out all the records."

Just about everyone associated with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED had a hand in the almanac. Even Marshall's 12-year-old son, Seton, got drafted to help out. "He thought he was meeting Dad at the office to go to a Mets game," says Marshall. "We made it to the game, but only after he typed eight pages of the almanac's directory." The directory, which lists the names of the top officials, the addresses and the phone numbers of every major pro and college sports organization in the country, epitomizes the book's comprehensiveness.

Seton's dad has been aware of the need for an SI almanac since he joined the SI editorial staff 20 years ago. "When I was a reporter, checking facts and doing research," he says, "I used to find myself wishing there was one book that could answer almost any question about the previous year in sports." Marshall went on to become an SI writer, then an editor, then director of photography and then special-projects guru, and by the start of this year he was finally in a position to make his old wish come true. "I'm already using this book as a checking source for next year's almanac," he says.

Oh, and the answers to those questions? The 1927 American League MVP was Lou Gehrig (Babe Ruth merely hit 60 homers that year). "Why are we honoring this man?" Uncle Miltie asked of Humble Howard at an '84 roast. "Have we run out of human beings?" And Sphairistike (taken from the Greek word for "ball game") is the name that Major W.C. Wingfield gave the game he patented in 1874, which we now know as tennis.

PHOTOLARS GELFANSI's almanac: answers for the tough questions.