How to Talk Baseball, by Mike Whiteford. New York: Dembner Books. 144 pp. $6. 95 (paperback).
I have a theory that the spirit of various sports reflects the nature of their traditional seasons. Grim, gladiatoral football is well suited to the onset of winter, while baseball has a lighter, lyrical touch inspired by the blooming of spring.
In keeping with this spirit, two new books of baseball humor maintain a tradition honored since ''Casey at the Bat.''
''The Official New York Yankees Hater's Handbook'' is dedicated to the tongue-in-cheek proposition that disdain for the team is ''a value we cherish and pass along to our children, like decency and democracy and the importance of a good breakfast.'' Chapter headings tell the story: ''The Roots and Traditions of Yankee-Hating'' . . . ''The Truth Behind Yankee Myths'' . . . ''Great Yankee Humiliations'' . . . ''Quotes to Make You Gloat.'' ''How to Talk Baseball'' has a broader subject: the colorful vocabulary that distinguishes baseball's true believers and mystifies the uninitiated. The first section offers 12 short profiles of men who have ''enriched baseball's lore and language,'' including manager Casey Stengel and sportswriter Red Smith. This is followed by a glossary of baseball terms from ''ace'' to ''yellow hammer.'' The pages are liberally sprinkled with Taylor Jones's clever caricatures of baseball greats. By the time you finish, you'll be able to make perfect sense of comments like this one from outfielder Dan Ford: ''I like Memorial Stadium [in Baltimore]. . . . There are big power alleys, and it's short down the line if you can pull the ball.''