Seldom does a record book make compelling "reading." When one does, it deserves a special spot on the shelf, which is just what Joseph Reichler's "The Great All-Time Baseball Record Book" (Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc., $19.95 ) will get. The beauty of this book lies in the depth of record-keeping that went into it.
A perfect example are 13 pages devoted to pitchers' nonpitching exploits. Reichler turns up such wonderfully interesting categories as:
* Pitchers with 20 wins and .300 batting averages in the same season (the Cardinals' Bob Gibson, in 1970, was the last of 14 hurlers to achieve this feat).
* Pitchers who stole home (Brooklyn's Don Newcombe, in 1955, being the most recent).
* Pitchers to hit two home runs in a game (Philadelphia's Randy Lerch last earning that distinction three years ago).
Reichler was obviously determined to go beyond the ordinary in digging up new grist for baseball's statistics mill. His book is an outgrowth of nearly 50 years of research, begun in 1936 when he discovered baseball's records sorely inadequate. Since then he has written a number of baseball books, served as a special assistant to baseball's commissioner, and edited "The Baseball Encyclopedia," bible of the sport.
Although Reichler's latest book includes predictable record breakdowns, offbeat facts generally steal the show.
Want to know every hitter to hit for the cycle -- single, double, triple, and home run in the same game? The best rookie performances or the best double-play combinations? It's all here, along with a list of retired numbers, brother pitching-catching batteries, and the identity of the hitter with more leadoff ho me runs than any other player, Bobby Bonds.