Stuck for a gift? Consider any of these four baseball books

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Mickey Lolich leaps into the arms of catcher Bill Freehan after the Tigers win Game 7 of the 1968 World Series.

’Tis the season to fear getting someone something they couldn’t give a hoot about.

So, here’s a failsafe suggestion, assuming your recipient has a yen for baseball.

Books. Good baseball books.

Four recommendations for consideration:

1. “Joy in Tigertown: A Determined Team, a Resilient City, and our Magical Run to the 1968 World Series,” by Mickey Lolich and Tom Gage.

Lolich remains, in 100-plus years of Tigers history, one of those Founding Father types. His longevity and excellence, his ability to perform when times and tension were at a peak, made him one of the most extraordinary figures in Detroit baseball’s rich weave of people and achievements.

He works in this book alongside former Detroit News colleague Tom Gage to offer all the accounts and insights not only in explaining how the magic of 1968 arrived, for a team and for a town, but how his unique background and how pivotal moments of fate all played into the majesty of 1968.

Lolich probably should be in the Hall of Fame. Compare his numbers with those of Curt Schilling and you find that, thanks to analytics and the newer revelations metrics have brought to past careers, Lolich has a case. Read about his mind and his moments and you get a better sense for Lolich’s immutable place in Tigers annals.

2. “An October to Remember,” by Brendan J. Donley.

This is an oral history of the ’68 Tigers and it’s lovely testimony from all the principals involved. No matter how much you remember from 1968 and Detroit’s mystical march to winning the World Series, no matter how many stories you’ve personally listened to and written about, the compendium of memories amassed here is rich history and a chance to revisit the sheer ecstasy Detroit and Michigan experienced during a year of baseball unmatched for the drama it regularly delivered.

This was diligent and impressive work by Donley. Anyone remotely familiar with 1968’s grandeur will appreciate this project, fully.

3. “The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created,” by Jane Leavy.

One rule of thumb personally adopted is I read anything Jane Leavy writes. She’s that good, particularly when it comes to baseball biographies, a superlative skill she previously has unveiled in her previous books on Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle.

Leavy decided to take on the man about whom we supposedly knew all, Ruth. And, of course, Leavy manages to reveal how much more could be discovered about The Bambino, from his earliest years until his death. Leavy is an exquisite reporter and researcher, which melds with her prose to make for a wondrous gift, which this book stands to be for anyone present-hunting this month.

4. “The Cooperstown Casebook,” by Jay Jaffe.

This came out a year ago and it is hardly overstatement to say it is one of the most important baseball books ever crafted. Baseball’s Hall of Fame remains the most revered of all such museums, all because of the game’s age, and its distinct levels of achievement that theoretically must be gained before a plaque is conferred.

The pursuit of a place in Cooperstown is so hallowed that it leads, naturally, to endless and vigorous debate about who does and doesn’t belong. The conversation requires an arbiter, which Jaffe has nobly become by way of an authentic and compelling statistical analysis that holds true to history and to valid comparisons.

It is indispensable. And if your intended gift recipient enjoys baseball and does not have “The Cooperstown Casebook,” this oversight can here be easily remedied.