Comedian Lou Costello may have engraved the question "Who's on first?" into America's sports consciousness, but "Who was first?" is the question fans really want answered. Patrick Clark has done just that with his book "Sports Firsts" (New York: Facts on File Inc. $14.95).
Not content simply to compile a list of firsts, Clark has dug up historical tidbits to garnish this colorful compilation of achievements and breakthroughs.
For example, we learn why Pat Palinkas, pro football's first woman player, entered an Atlantic Coast League game in 1970: she wanted to hold the football for her husband, Steve, a placekicker with the Orlando Panthers.
There's an explanation of why Moses Fleetwood Walker, and not JAckie Robinson , technically qualifies as baseball's first black big leaguer: In 1884 Walker played for Toledo of the American Association, which was considered a major league at the time.
Among other interesting morsels from the 200-page volume:
* Damon Runyon's suggestion that the roller derby needed more body contact placed the once-tame sport on its present course.
* In 1946 the New York Yankees became the first major league baseball team to do all their traveling b y plane.