Friday, October 28, 2016

Boo? Halloween Used to Be About Finding True Love By Niraj Chokshi

Halloween wasn’t always so scary. It was once less about fright and more about flirtation.

A century ago, the rituals surrounding the celebration at the end of October emphasized love. Newspapers recommended parlor games that promised to reveal romantic fortune. Even the cast of characters was more oriented toward matters of the heart.

“Halloween in the early 20th century had far less emphasis on blood, gore and scary monsters, and much more emphasis on courtship, romance and the opportunity for love,” Daniel Gifford, the former manager of museum advisory committees for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History explained in a museum blog post last year.

“In fact, the image of Cupid was often interspersed among the more familiar black cats, witches and jack-o’-lanterns.”

Halloween games and traditions reflected that attention to themes of love, with many offering a peek at what the future holds. For women in a restrictive society, they offered a semblance of control.

“Given the importance of finding a desirable marriageable man in an era when prim, proper, ladylike behavior was the norm, young women often reveled in chances to participate in well-established and -regarded traditions that might guide them to the spouses of their dreams,” Diane Arkins, the author of the book “Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear,” from Pelican Publishing, said in an email.

Here’s a look at some of those largely forgotten customs.

Snap Apple and Other Games of Love

Apples played a starring role in many of Halloween’s romantic traditions.

One game, Snap Apple, challenged participants to use only their teeth to bite an apple suspended from the ceiling by a string or ribbon, Ms. Arkins writes in her book.

The first to succeed would be the first to marry. (In a more dangerous version of the game, the apple is speared by a stick with a lit candle on the opposite end.)

In its heyday, the game was so popular that Halloween was sometimes called Snap Apple Night, according to various reports. But modern Americans may be more familiar with another, similar activity: bobbing for apples.

According to tradition, a successful first attempt at that game — retrieving an apple with one’s mouth from a container filled with water — foretold true love reciprocated, Ms. Arkins writes. Repeated failure suggested that a less-than-ideal match awaited, or perhaps it was a warning to move on.

Other traditions were simpler. One old custom called for cutting a long strip of apple skin and tossing it over one’s shoulder. The landed peel was said to resemble the first initial of a suitor.

Another tradition involved eating an apple in front of a mirror to conjure the image of one’s soul mate, just in time for him or her to ask for the last bite.

The seeds within offered insight, too, with poems serving as guides to what they predicted. Here is one such poem, reproduced by Ms. Arkins and published in the “Kiddies’ Hallowe’en Book” in 1931:
One seed shows you’ll get a letter,
Two a dish you’re going to break.
Three seeds, you’ll hear some good news,
Four, a ride you soon will take.
Five, you will be disappointed,
Six, you’re going to meet a friend.
Seven brings you a surprise,
Eight, some money you will spend.
Nine shows there’s pleasure coming,
Ten, you’ll have something to wear.
Eleven, you will take a trip,
Twelve, some good luck you will share.
Thirteen seeds, you’ll have a fright,
Fourteen, your future days are bright.

The Nut Crack Night

Nuts featured prominently enough in Halloween traditions that the day was also sometimes referred to as “Nut Crack Night.”

According to one popular tradition, placing two chestnuts on a stove or fire, each representing a partner in a romantic pairing, would yield insight into the stability of a match.

A pair that cozied up to each other and burned brightly foretold a happy relationship, Utah’s Ogden Standard explained in 1915. But if one nut cracked or popped, that partner’s love could prove fickle.

By adding a third nut, one could compare multiple partners: “The nut which burns longer and more quietly betokens the more constant lover,” the Ogden Standard reported.

In her book, Ms. Arkins describes a different kind of ritual, involving “boats” made of walnut shells filled with wax. Colored candles affixed to each represented potential partners. They were then set in motion in a tub of water, with the candles lit.

The boats that sailed together symbolized a match meant to be. The person whose boat first reached the opposite side would be first to wed. An extinguished candle indicated a lonely future.

Yet another superstition featured a walnut tree. The rules, according to a 1914 article in The Evening Public Ledger in Philadelphia, were straightforward: On a moonlit Halloween night, circle the tree three times while chanting, “Let him that is to be my true love bring me some walnuts.”

Once complete, the participant would see his or her future spouse picking walnuts in the tree.

Mirror, Mirror

While apples and nuts featured prominently — harking back to Halloween’s roots as a harvest celebration — other romantic traditions took hold as well.

One game, described by The Evening Public Ledger in 1914, called for a participant to walk backward in bright moonlight while staring into a hand mirror and reciting an incantation. If done properly, the face of his or her future spouse would materialize in the mirror. (In her book, Ms. Arkins describes a similar version of the game involving a mouthful of salt and a backward walk down cellar stairs.)

Another game described in The Ledger involved burying three items — a dime, a ring and a thimble — in mashed potatoes. The food was then served to guests at a party. The guest who received the ring would marry soon; the one with the thimble would spend most of his or her life alone; while the guest who got the dime could expect fame or fortune.

Fading Superstition

As varied and popular as the romantic Halloween customs were, they began to lose their hold on the American public in the early 20th century.

Women, the traditional party hosts and targets of such games, were gaining greater agency over their lives, eroding the appeal of rituals that underscored their lack of power.

At the same time, a figure re-emerged in popular culture: the powerful witch. And unlike some modern depictions, she was alluring.

“The beautiful witch had both power and attractiveness, and could use both to make her own decisions about romance, suitors and the future of her love life,” Mr. Gifford explained.

The witch had no need for fortunetelling games: She could create her own destiny.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

World Series Game 2: Indians Spoil No-Hitter and Cut Cubs’ Lead to 5-1 by Benjamin Hoffman and David Waldstein

Top of 7th: Indians’ Bullpen Gets In and Out of Trouble

Jeff Manship entered the game as Cleveland’s fifth pitcher of the night and started things off with a walk to Willson Contreras. That brought up the struggling Jason Heyward, and while the box score says Heyward recorded an out, the big outfielder’s hard-hit ball to the outfield had to be encouraging for him following a difficult first year in Chicago.

The Indians then tried to get fancy on a ground ball from Addison Russell and it backfired. Shortstop Francisco Lindor made a diving stop and tried to flip it to Jason Kipnis at second base from behind his back to try and start a double play. The flip was well out of Kipnis’s reach, and the second baseman was saddled with an error for his trouble. Dexter Fowler loaded the bases with his first hit of the series and that was it for Manship, who was relieved by Dan Otero having recorded just one out while allowing three baserunners.

Asked to work out of a terrible jam, Otero immediately got a ground ball to third-base from Kris Bryant to erase the run at home. Otero then got Anthony Rizzo to fly out to left to end the inning.
David Waldstein: Before people start claiming Kipnis, a former Cubs fan from Northbrook, Ill., is subconsciously trying to help his former favorite team end their 108-year jinx, remember he got the first hit off of Arrieta, a hustling double, and scored Cleveland’s only run. Not that anyone would say that with any level of seriousness. The good news for the Indians is that Kipnis’s ankle seems to be fine. The bad news is that he is having trouble catching the ball. Maybe he sprained his glove, too.

Bottom of 6th: Arrieta’s No-Hitter, and Night, Are Over

Jake Arrieta’s pursuit of the third no-hitter in postseason history ended when Jason Kipnis hit a one-out double up the middle. Two batters later the Indians scored the team’s first run of the game when a wild pitch allowed Kipnis to score.

After the wild pitch and a single by Mike Napoli, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon pulled Arrieta in favor of Mike Montgomery.

While thoughts of Arrieta joining Don Larsen and Roy Halladay in the history books were fun, it was unlikely he would have been allowed to go the distance. His pitch-count when he was pulled was already at 98. Montgomery needed just two pitches to end the inning, getting Jose Ramirez to ground out, ending the modest rally.

Top of 6th: Cleveland Bullpen Holds On

Danny Salazar became Cleveland’s fourth pitcher of the night, and the right-hander got off to a good start by getting Kris Bryant to line out to center and Anthony Rizzo to ground out to first. He got into a jam by issuing consecutive walks to Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber, but he wriggled out of the inning by inducing a popup to center from Javier Baez. The Cleveland bullpen is getting a lot of work in tonight.

David Waldstein: Attendance is announced as 38,172. A lot of them are Cubs fans. The rest are cold and miserable, since the Indians don’t have a hit and Jake Arrieta has faced only three batters above the minimum.

Things are looking good for Chicago. The last time the Cubs won a World Series game was Game 6 in 1945 (they lost Game 7 when Hal Newhouser threw a complete game for the Detroit Tigers). Skeeter Webb, Dizzy Trout and Peanuts Lowrey went a combined 1 for 10 for both teams in that game. Coco Crisp could have played in that game.

Bottom of 5th: Indians Still Hitless Against Arrieta

Jake Arrieta got a quick first out on a liner from Coco Crisp and then struck out Tyler Naquin. Roberto Perez, the hero of Game 1, put a charge into the ball, but Ben Zobrist caught it near the wall to end the inning and preserve the no-hitter. After entering the game as a pinch-runner for Jorge Soler in the top-half of the inning, the struggling Jason Heyward stayed in to play right field. Considering his gigantic contract, it would be good for Heyward to chip in on offense as well.

David Waldstein: Arrieta is pitching like it is 2015, or at least the first half of 2016. I know he was not at his best down the stretch, but Arrieta is a great choice to pitch on the road. Over the last two seasons he is 24-4 away from Wrigley Field, and yes, records do matter for starting pitchers when the numbers are that prominent. Last year he was 13-1 on the road with a 1.60 earned run average.
Cleveland still doesn’t have a hit. Arrieta is putting the ball on the corners with late movement and a lot of heat. How do you hit that? He’s thrown 79 pitches through five innings.

Cleveland fans here have almost nothing to cheer, but they were jazzed up to see members of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team in their usual luxury box showing off their brand new championship rings. I saw J.R. Smith and Kevin Love. I think LeBron is also here, somewhere, too. Maybe he could get a hit off of Arrieta.

Top of 5th: Cubs’ Bats Give Arrieta Some Breathing Room

The Cubs are continuing to pile on in support of Jake Arrieta’s masterpiece.
Zach McCallister started off the inning with his second consecutive strikeout, but Anthony Rizzo was able to draw a one-out walk. Ben Zobrist made McAllister pay for it by driving a ball to the right-field wall that Lonnie Chisenhall fell down trying to corral. Rizzo scored all the way from first and Zobrist slid into third for a triple, ending McAllister’s day.

Bryan Shaw came on in relief to face Kyle Schwarber and Schwarber delivered once again, with a single that brought Zobrist home, stretching the lead to 4-0 with Cleveland having recorded just one out.

Shaw struck out Javier Baez for the second out of the inning but Jason Kipnis bobbled a grounder from Willson Contreras that allowed the Cubs’ catcher to reach first base. With runners at first and third, Jorge Soler walked to load the bases and then Shaw walked Addison Russell to force in a run, pushing the score to 5-0. Luckily for Shaw, the next batter was the struggling Dexter Fowler, who struck out swinging, and extended his hitless streak in the series to eight at-bats.

David Waldstein: Kyle Schwarber cannot be stopped. The question is, can he possibly play in the outfield when the series moves to National League park Wrigley Field? I would think not because of his surgically repaired knee. But his bat is such a weapon, it may be tempting for the Cubs to play him. They already took a chance by putting him on the World Series roster, but playing him in the outfield is kind of pushing it.

Now, let’s see if the Indians can get a hit. That would be a good place for them to start.

Bottom of 4th: Arrieta Stays Hot With No Sleeves

It has been four innings and Cleveland has yet to get a hit against the pitcher who is the best in the majors at not allowing them. Arrieta, in short sleeves, pitched to Francisco Lindor, who was not only wearing a hood but also had his mouth and nose covered. The extra warmth didn’t matter, with Arrieta getting Lindor with a called strike three. Mike Napoli was next, and he flied out weakly to center. Jose Ramirez walked, but Arrieta got Lonnie Chisenhall to pop out to end the inning.
Arrieta has thrown two no-hitters in his career and has led the majors in fewest hits allowed per nine innings in each of the last two seasons.

Top of 4th: Francona Turns to Indians’ Bullpen

With Cleveland’s bullpen already stirring, Willson Contreras led off the inning for Chicago with a walk. Trevor Bauer got some good luck when Jorge Soler grounded to the hole between first and second, but Jason Kipnis was able to field the ball and start a double-play to erase Contreras. Addison Russell singled and that was enough for Terry Francona, who pulled Bauer in favor of Zach McAllister.

McAllister, a former prospect as a starter who has settled into a role as a decent reliever for the Indians, struck out Dexter Fowler to end the inning.

David Waldstein: Not a great outing by Bauer. He clearly didn’t have the feel on his pitches, and that kind of pitch count is not helpful — 87 pitches in three and two-thirds innings. By comparison, Greg Maddux threw a complete game against the Cubs in 1997 (the year the Indians last went to the World Series). Maddux hit double figures in pitches in only two innings in that game.

Bottom of 3rd: Arrieta Handles Perez and Santana

After clubbing two home runs in his first World Series game, Roberto Perez showed bunt on Jake Arrieta’s first pitch to him, but he pulled the bat back and ended up striking out in an eight-pitch at-bat. Carlos Santana worked a full-count but also struck out on a ball he felt was out of the strike zone. Jason Kipnis ended the inning with a fly ball to left and Arrieta has now retired seven consecutive batters.

David Waldstein: The pace of this game is not great in terms of avoiding the rain that is supposedly on its way. But we may avoid it, anyway. It is pretty chilly, about 43 degrees, but the latest weather reports say there is supposedly zero percent chance of rain through 10 p.m. Eastern time, and only a 25 percent chance of rain through 11 p.m.

Top of 3rd: Cubs Happy to Have Schwarber Back

The incredible comeback story of Kyle Schwarber continues: He did not have a hit in the regular season, but as the Cubs’ designated hitter he drove in a run with a single to increase the Cubs’ lead to 2-0.

It looked like Trevor Bauer had calmed down, and was going to have an easy inning, but then his lack of control extended the inning and also increased Cleveland’s deficit. Facing the top of the order, Bauer got a quick out on a grounder to second from Dexter Fowler, who is now 0 for 6 in the series. He then played with fire, hanging a curveball to Kris Bryant, but got away with it when the slugging third baseman lined out to shortstop.

With two outs, Bauer froze Anthony Rizzo with a pair of nasty curveballs that had the big first baseman buckling at the knees, but then he simply lost control of the at-bat, and threw four consecutive balls to send Rizzo to first. Ben Zobrist followed Rizzo with a single and then Schwarber singled to score Rizzo.

David Waldstein: Activating Kyle Schwarber for the World Series after a major knee injury in April might go down as one of the best roster transactions of the postseason. He singled in a run, and then yelled an expletive at his bench after getting on base. Oh, these ballplayers.

This is definitely going to become a bullpen game for the Indians. Bauer’s pinkie doesn’t seem to be bleeding but he has thrown 71 pitches already. The Indians had Zach McAllister and Jeff Manship warming in the last inning. Remember, Danny Salazar is down there, too.

Bottom of 2nd: Arrieta Cruises

Things were awfully quiet for the Cleveland offense. Jake Arrieta only needed two pitches to retire Lonnie Chisenhall and got Coco Crisp to line out to Javier Baez for the second out. Tyler Naquin worked into a full-count but he struck out swinging to end the inning.

David Waldstein: After Andrew Miller threw 46 pitches in Game 1 there were questions about whether he could pitch in Game 2. He is available tonight, but we don’t know how much. He could be used for one batter — maybe to face Anthony Rizzo or Kyle Schwarber at a critical juncture.
Speaking of Miller, before the game he was asked about being used in specific roles and he said that when he was with the Yankees. When Aroldis Chapman returned from his suspension, Manager Joe Girardi’s handling of it was confusing for Miller and Dellin Betances.

“I know when Chapman came back this year Dellin and I were kind of up in the air about which order we would pitch,” he said. “And in some instances it created a mess because we were both warming up next to each other. I think all managers, like Joe, Tito, I’ve been lucky to have some that really handle the bullpen well. But you hate to have two guys warming up at the same time. It seems wasteful, in a sense.”

Top of 2nd: Bauer Working Hard For Outs

Javier Baez got the inning started by hitting a chopper to third base that Jose Ramirez couldn’t bare-hand on a bad hop. It will look like a line drive in the box score as Baez reached first for a single. But Trevor Bauer was unfazed, getting fly-outs from Willson Contreras, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell to end the inning. Bauer has continued to have to work hard for every out, and is up to 51 pitches in just two innings of work.
David Waldstein: The Cubs’ run in the first inning broke a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings by Cleveland pitchers. That’s how you go 8-1 in the postseason. Bauer settled into a better vibe in the second, but he is still having trouble with his curveball. He is either hanging them or not getting it over for strikes. Wonder if the pinkie is a problem with his curveball grip. He threw 22 pitches in the second and is at 51 through 2 innings. That could become a factor.
Bauer walked 70 batters this year and a league-high 79 the year before. So, the Cubs could look to be aggressive on the first pitch, but then be patient after that, get men on base and then do some real damage.

Bottom of 1st: Arrieta Tough, but Wild

Jake Arrieta was looking the part of the tough guy to start the game, going with short sleeves in the cold and rainy weather while Javier Baez stood at second base with a hood pulled up under his hat. Things got off to a good start for Arrieta, with two quick outs, but then he seemed to lose his command, walking both Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli. At one point he threw six consecutive pitches well outside the strike zone, continuing the struggles he had with command this season.
With two on and two out, Jose Ramirez hit a ball deep to center field, but it fell into Tyler Naquin’s glove to end the inning without any actual damage done.

Top of 1st: Rizzo Gets Cubs Started

It was Chicago’s turn to get off to a fast start.
Game 2 began with a first-pitch ball from Trevor Bauer to Dexter Fowler. Two pitches later Bauer got the Cubs’ leadoff hitter to hit a broken bat grounder to the mound for the first out of the game. But Kris Bryant, who was hitless in Game 1, got things started with a single and Anthony Rizzo followed that up by crushing a liner to right field that gave Bryant plenty of time to score from first, with Rizzo getting into second base easily for a double.
Ben Zobrist flied out and Bauer struck out Kyle Schwarber to get out of the jam.
Bauer, who typically labors quite a bit to get outs even when he is pitching well, threw 29 pitches in the inning — including 10 in Zobrist’s at-bat — and if early going was any indication, Cleveland may be going to the bullpen early.

David Waldstein: Trevor Bauer actually made it through the first inning, but only barely.
Bauer was not sharp in that inning, but perhaps that was to be expected. He has only thrown two-thirds of an inning (his aborted A.L.C.S. start) since Oct. 6. That’s nearly three weeks without being on the mound in a game.

Here’s What to Expect in Game 2

■ The game was moved up an hour (7:08 p.m. ET) due to rain in the forecast. A cold, rainy night is good news for pitchers, as hitters prefer it to be dry and warm. The tables could turn if there is a rain delay while the starting pitchers are still in, because resuming throwing after more than 30 or 40 minutes is not generally advisable. Postseason rules require the game to be played to completion, so if the teams are not able to finish nine innings, they will have to come back tomorrow on what was planned to be a day off.

■ The Cubs need Jake Arrieta to pitch like the 2015 version of Jake Arrieta. On paper, Arrieta has the advantage over Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer, who has a 5.06 earned-run average in two postseason starts and had a 5.36 E.R.A. after the All-Star break.

■ Bauer, who injured his pinkie finger in a drone accident, says the digit is fine and he is ready to pitch. Bauer also said he was fine before he pitched in Game 3 of the A.L.C.S., and he did not make it out of the first inning before blood started oozing out of the cut. He threw to batters on Monday without problem, but he wore a tight bandage around the pinkie, and by rule he cannot do that in the game.

■ Kyle Schwarber may have some rust after a long layoff — as evidenced by some creative baserunning during the game — but his bat is still potent, as he just missed homering off Corey Kluber on a night in which none of his teammates could do any damage. He became the first player ever to have his first hit of the season come in the World Series, and he will get another chance to serve as the designated hitter in Game 2.

■ The Indians can’t expect Roberto Perez (2 home runs) to carry the offense for a second consecutive game. They’ll need Jason Kipnis, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana, who combined to go 0 for 10 with 3 walks, to have more of an impact.

■ No one should ever assume Cleveland reliever Andrew Miller is not available, but the Indians may have to be conservative with him. The tall lefty with the wicked slider struggled a little in Game 1, and threw 46 pitches in two innings of hard work. The last time he threw that many? A start he had for the Red Sox in September of 2011. — Benjamin Hoffman

What Happens If There’s Rain?

Major League Baseball was hoping to play and complete Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday, but rain threatened to disrupt the game and the scheduling for the rest of the series.

A light drizzle fell throughout the day in Cleveland, but forecasts predicted conditions would clear by first pitch at 7:08 p.m. However, more rain was predicted for later in the evening.

That could result in a lengthy delay and the possibility of a suspension and resumption of play on Thursday, evoking memories of issues that emerged in the 2008 World Series between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

“The plan is to play the game, right now,” Peter Woodfork, the senior vice president of baseball operations at Major League Baseball, said Wednesday afternoon. “If something happens and we need to come back tomorrow, it’s unfortunate, and we don’t want that to happen, but realistically we can’t control the weather.”

In the postseason, all games that are suspended will be resumed at the point of the delay and nine innings must be played, unlike in the regular season.

But weather forecasts for Cleveland were not good for Thursday, either, meaning a suspended game might not be resumed until Friday. That is when Game 3 is scheduled to be played in Chicago. If that happens, then all three games in Chicago would have to be moved back a day, as well.

In Game 5 of the 2008 World Series in Philadelphia, play continued with the Phillies leading by a run, 2-1, after five innings amid heavy downpours. Theoretically, the game could have been delayed, and then called in favor of the Phillies as a rain-shortened game that would have given them the championship.

However, Bud Selig, the commissioner at the time, ruled that he would not allow a game that could decide the World Series to be called before nine innings were played, even though that stipulation had not yet been codified into the rule book.

But after the World Series, baseball modified the rule to insure that every postseason game had to go the full nine innings.

In 2011, the rule was applied for the only time when Game 1 of a division series between the Yankees and Detroit Tigers was suspended after the top of the second with the score tied at 1-1.

The game was completed the next day with Ivan Nova of the Yankees and Doug Fister of the Tigers basically acting as starting pitchers, even though they were technically pitching in relief. The Yankees had the unusual experience of batting first at home when play resumed because it was actually the bottom of the second.

The Yankees won that game, 9-3, but lost the series in five games. — David Waldstein

Trevor Bauer and the Drone

Cleveland Manager Tito Francona laughed it off, saying jokingly, “Probably everybody in here probably at some point or another had a drone-related problem.” Bauer even brought his drone to the off-day news conference and assured the news media that his finger was fine.Yet he was forced from Game 3 after facing only four batters because his cut opened and blood visibly seeped out of the wound. Now Bauer is back on the mound for Game 2 of the World Series, and the Indians are hoping to avoid another gruesome occurrence. Bauer, who was a mechanical engineering major at U.C.L.A., is passionate about building and flying drones. He has visited with the robotics team at Max Hayes High School in Cleveland and even entered his first drone race while in Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Twins.

He often brings his drones with him on road trips and visits local parks to fly them. Once, he got his drone stuck in a tree in Kansas City while there to play the Royals. He took to Twitter for advice, but nothing worked until members of the Royals’ clubhouse staff had to the idea to attach fishing wire to a baseball and knock it down.”I’d rather be known as a nerd than an athlete,” he told a reporter. — Melissa Hoppert


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cubs Defeat Dodgers to Clinch First Pennant Since 1945 - The New York Times

By BILLY WITZ OCT. 22, 2016

CHICAGO — David Ross, the grandfatherly catcher, admits to never having paid much attention in history class. Kris Bryant, the precocious young slugger, isn’t much for math, struggling to count back the years since the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series.

For a franchise so saddled by its own history — of bad baseball, bad breaks and billy goat curses — the latest iteration of the Cubs has carried on in a blissful cocoon of ignorance.

“History doesn’t really weigh on this club,” Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president for baseball operations, said before Game 6 on Saturday. “We’re just trying to win tonight’s game. These guys, a lot of them are in their early 20s, and they’re not burdened by that stuff. The organization isn’t. It’s just about trying to win and keeping it simple.”

And in the end, doing simple better, to use one of Manager Joe Maddon’s pet phrases, carried the Cubs all the way to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

The Cubs got there with a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fearsome ace, Clayton Kershaw. The Cubs jumped on him early, added home runs from Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo, and protected the lead with artful pitching from Kyle Hendricks, who allowed just two hits over seven and a third innings.

The Cubs’ opponent in the World Series will be another team with a history of hard luck: the Cleveland Indians, who have not won a championship since 1948. Their futility, of course, pales next to that of the Cubs, who have not won a World Series since 1908. But when the Series begins in Cleveland on Tuesday night, someone’s long drought will be near an end.

The Cubs rolled to the best regular-season record in the major leagues, winning 103 games and clinching a division title with more than two weeks to play, but they have had to prove their mettle in the playoffs.

In their division series, they rallied from four runs down in the ninth inning to finish off battle-tested San Francisco, which had won a record 10 consecutive elimination games in the postseason. And in the National League Championship Series, after being shut out in back-to-back contests, the Cubs bounced back from a two-games-to-one deficit. They did not lose after that, scoring 23 runs in the final three games.

Although the Cubs were home on Saturday, with a loud, insistent Wrigley Field throng urging them on, they knew it would not be easy to beat Kershaw, who had bested them in Game 2 of the series, also at Wrigley, allowing just two hits in seven innings.

They would also have to beat back history. The last time the Cubs had been in this position — playing a Game 6 at home in 2003, needing one victory to capture the National League pennant — they had unraveled, blowing a 3-0 lead to the Florida Marlins after a fan named Steve Bartman accidentally interfered with a foul ball.

On Saturday night, the seat down the left-field line that had been occupied by Bartman — Section 104, Row 8, Seat 113 — was empty until just before game time.

“I sat in it,” said Nancy Mazzone, whose seat was one row in front. “I felt not-bad vibes. It’s all good.”

When a fan arrived to sit in the Bartman seat, he identified himself as Bryan. He said he was 38 and worked for a family-entertainment company, and he was wearing a No. 14 cap in deference to Ernie Banks, one of the great Cubs players who never made it to the World Series.

Bryan was asked by one of a half-dozen reporters present if he knew the history of the seat he was now occupying.

“I kind of do now,” he said. “We’re going to stay out of the way.”

When Maddon had gone out to dinner in Chicago on Friday night, he had gotten a full plate of encouragement from fans, although it came with a side of unease.

“It’s just a fan base that’s been waiting for a while,” Maddon said Saturday before the game. “We’re definitely on the verge of doing something wonderful, and they’re absolutely engaged and involved.”

He added: “You accept it, and you nurture it, and you understand it, but at the end of the day, our boys have got to go out there and play the game like we can tonight, and I want that with a free mind and moment by moment.”

Still, as much as Maddon wanted that from his players, the mix of anxiety and anticipation was hard to ignore as the crowd filtered into Wrigley Field.

“I don’t want to have to say next year — not again,” said Kristine Fuller, 70, a retired nurse whose children chipped in to buy her a ticket to Saturday’s game.

As it turned out, it was not the Cubs who were overcome by jitters but the Dodgers. Left fielder Andrew Toles dropped a fly ball that led to a run in the first, and Josh Reddick was picked off first base in the second.

The baby-faced Hendricks, who graduated from Dartmouth with an economics degree, has made a career out of a pedestrian fastball and operating in the shadows — all the way back to high school when it was his teammate Tyler Matzek who was chosen 11th over all in the draft.

Hendricks had not lasted more than five and a third innings in four previous playoff starts, but in this game, he was masterly. He allowed a single to Toles on the first pitch of the game, but on the second pitch, Hendricks, who induced more soft contact than any pitcher in baseball this season, got Corey Seager to ground into a double play.

Hendricks did not allow another hit until Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. Maddon then strolled out to the mound to a chorus of boos and replaced Hendricks with closer Aroldis Chapman. The first batter Chapman faced — pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick — hit a line drive that second baseman Javier Baez alertly fielded on a short hop instead of catching it on the fly, which allowed him to turn an easy double play and end the inning.

Meanwhile, the Cubs showed no deference toward Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner. Dexter Fowler lofted a fly ball down the right side that bounced just inside the line and into the stands for a ground-rule double to start off the bottom of the first. Bryant followed with a line-drive single to right, scoring Fowler with the only run the Cubs would need.

After Toles dropped a fly ball hit by Rizzo, Ben Zobrist hit a sacrifice fly to score Bryant, and the Cubs had what seemed like a gift: an early advantage that would limit any anxiety from the crowd.

In the second, Fowler, a .409 career hitter against Kershaw — the highest mark of any active player — hit a two-out single. That scored Addison Russell, who had rattled a double off the left-field wall, and gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

Contreras hit a solo home run in the fourth, slugging a line drive down the line that he celebrated with a bat flip, although the ball barely cleared the wall. When Rizzo homered to right-center in the fifth, Kershaw sank to his knees and exclaimed, “No!”

That made the score 5-0. All that was left was for Hendricks to continue carving up the Dodgers and for Chapman to finish them off. The fans passed the time with a rousing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and rose to their feet for the entire top of the ninth, bellowing, “Let’s go, Cubbies.”

There was little anxiety — only anticipation, with some fans wiping away tears and others crossing their fingers until, finally, Yasiel Puig hit a slow bouncing ball with one out and Carlos Ruiz on first. In an echo of Tinkers to Evers to Chance, it was Russell to Baez to Rizzo.

When Rizzo, the first baseman, gloved the ball, the Cubs poured out of the dugout, and the crowd sang the anthem “Go Cubs Go.”

A version of this article appears in print on October 23, 2016, on page SP3 of the New York edition with the headline: Not a Misprint: Cubs Win Pennant.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cubs Thrash Dodgers to Even N.L.C.S. at Two Games Each - The New York Times

Cubs Thrash Dodgers to Even N.L.C.S. at Two Games Each - The New York Times:

"LOS ANGELES — Faced with a moment of truth after being shut out in back-to-back games by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs had all eyes upon them, studying how they would react."

'via Blog this'

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Iraqi Forces Attack Mosul, Seeking to Dislodge Islamic State

By Rod Norland


Iraqi soldiers during a training session for the battle to retake Mosul, as a shepherd led his herd in Bashiqa this month. CreditThaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

ERBIL, Iraq — Mosul’s residents are hoarding food and furtively scrawling resistance slogans on walls, while the city’s Islamic State rulers have feverishly expanded their underground tunnel network and tried to dodge American drones.
After months of maneuvering, the Iraqi government’s battle to reclaim Mosul, the sprawling city whose million-plus population lent the most credence to the Islamic State’s claim to rule a fledgling nation, has finally begun. In the early hours Monday morning, an announcement by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of the campaign’s opening was accompanied by artillery barrages and a rush of armored vehicles toward the front a few miles away from the city’s limits.
Those forces will be fighting to enter a city where for weeks the harsh authoritarian rule of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, has sought to crack down on a population eager to either escape or rebel, according to interviews with roughly three dozen people from Mosul, including refugees who managed to sneak out in recent weeks and residents reached by contraband cellphones in the city.
Just getting out of Mosul had become difficult and dangerous: Those who were caught faced million-dinar fines, unless they were former members of the Iraqi Army or police, in which case the punishment was beheading.
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While the civilians described stockpiling food in basement hiding places, the jihadists were said to be frantically making military preparations within Mosul, temporarily fleeing the streets — most likely to an extensive tunnel network below — at the first signs of an airstrike, according to the new accounts.


A member of the Iraqi forces checked his weapon at a base about 35 miles from Mosul on Sunday.CreditAhmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Some of Mosul’s remaining one million or more residents had grown bolder in showing resistance against the Islamic State force ruling the city — numbering 3,000 to 4,500 fighters, the United States military estimated. Graffiti and other displays of dissidence against the Islamic State were more common there in recent weeks, as were executions when the vandals were caught.
Early this month, 58 people were executed for their role in a plot to overturn the Islamic State that was led by an aide of the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Reuters reported.
When fewer than 1,000 Islamic State fighters forced about 60,000 Iraqi Army and police defenders to abandon Mosul in June 2014, many among its Sunni population cheered their arrival. They saw the militants as fellow Sunnis who would end corruption and abuse at the hands of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government and security services.
But much of that local good will dissipated after more than two years ofharsh rule by the militants, a mix of Iraqis and Syrians with a grab bag of foreign fighters.
Mosul residents chafed under social codes banning smoking and calling for splashing acid on body tattoos, summary executions of perceived opponents, whippings of those who missed prayers or trimmed their beards, and destroying “un-Islamic” historical monuments.
“Anyone who has accepted Daesh before? They’ve changed their minds now,” said Azhar Mahmoud, a former Education Ministry official who recently fled his home village near Mosul, and who initially accepted rule by the Islamic State.


A tent camp was being prepared in Khazer, Iraq, to absorb the expected flow of refugees fleeing Mosul. CreditAzad Lashkari/Reuters

In addition, there were recent reports of at least some underground resistance within the city, if mostly symbolic. Photos and oral accounts abounded of the Arabic letter M scrawled on walls — standing for moqawama, or resistance. The Islamic State beheaded two men in front of one such slogan, and posted a video of the killings.
Another execution video identified the victims, punished for internet use, as members of the resistance group Suraya Rimah, according to the group’s leader, Omar Fadil al-Alaf, who is based in the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, about 50 miles east of Mosul.
“People are just waiting for liberation so they can fulfill their promises to take revenge on Daesh and kill them,” Mr. Alaf said.
Compounding the militants’ problems with the population was a growing economic crisis, according to American officials. In recent months, the Islamic State lost control of oil fields near Raqqa in Syria and Qaiyara in Iraq, and trade with ISIS-held parts of Syria was choked off because of the group’s military reversals.
Electricity, once plentiful before Kurdish forces took back the Mosul Dam from militant control, has been typically available in the city for only a couple of hours a day, residents say. Some areas lack running water, with residents forced to use personal generators to pump water from wells.
Schools had not opened at all this year, absent funding and teachers willing to work for nothing.
The local economic crisis hit the militants as well, with reports that they cut the pay for their fighters to less than $100 a month, from $400 in 2014, said Abu Bakr Kanan, a former leader of the Sunni religious affairs office in Mosul, who said he was in regular touch with residents there.

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Iraqi government
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Many of the residents contacted described the militants as conducting a high-profile recruiting drive among 14- to 40-year-old males, depicting enlistment as a religious duty, but with apparently decreasing success.
A car mechanic who left the city just over two weeks ago, and asked not to be identified because he still had relatives there, said that on his final Friday in Mosul he attended prayers at which a prominent Islamic State imam harangued the worshipers about volunteering, but seemingly won no one over.
The militants’ security preparations have been directed not only at the city’s borders — particularly toward the south and east where Iraqi forces, allied militias and Kurdish pesh merga fighters are arrayed — but also internally. Traffic on secondary roads in the city was banned, and house-to-house searches — for weapons and any signs of organized resistance — were carried out in many neighborhoods.
Last month, a YouTube video surfaced of Suraya Rimah fighters appealing to residents of Mosul to kill their ISIS rulers when the offensive began.
Resistance groups in the city — at least five claimed to have a presence — say they concentrated on assassinating individuals, said Abdullah Abu Ahmed, who described himself as a leader of an anti-ISIS brigade in Mosul called The Resistance. He was reached by telephone through intermediaries.
“All Mosul people, whenever they have the chance to fight and kill ISIS terrorists, they do so,” he said. He cited a recent attack on a jewelry market in which two members of the Islamic State were killed.


An Iraqi woman and child at the Kurdish-run Dibaga refugee camp south of Erbil after leaving Mosul last month. CreditSafin Hamed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, coalition airstrikes began more intensively targeting the suspected homes of senior Islamic State figures in Mosul. Residents said those senior militants, many of whom had relatively high public profiles in the city, became conspicuous by their absence on the streets.
There have also been a notable number of desertions from the Islamic State. Kurdish officials said they had found 300 suspected ISIS deserters, or potential infiltrators, in recent months. Most were caught among the refugees escaping from ISIS-held territory who arrived at the Kurdish-run Dibaga Camp, the main site for refugees, south of Erbil, said Ardalan Mohiadin, who is in charge of the camp’s reception center.
Dibaga Camp now has 43,000 refugees from Mosul and other Islamic State strongholds, with about 11,000 arriving in September alone, Mr. Mohiadin said.
Despite months of preparation for a much larger wave of refugees from the city, aid officials warned that it was unlikely to be nearly enough once the fighting intensified.
“The United Nations is deeply concerned that in a worst-case scenario, the operation in Mosul could be the most complex and largest in the world in 2016, and we fear as many as one million civilians may be forced to flee their homes,” said Lise Grande, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.
Airstrikes on the militants in Mosul led many of them to move in among civilian residents, the locals said.


Iraqi villagers welcomed an army soldier after the defeat of Islamic State fighters in the Ramadi area last week. CreditUncredited/Associated Press

A woman who arrived at Dibaga Camp recently said her family had been forced to take in a Chechen ISIS fighter, and shortly afterward an airstrike hit the home, killing the militant but also two members of the family. The woman’s 9-year-old daughter was trapped under a collapsed wall.
The girl survived and is with her mother in the camp now.
Nearly all of the Mosul residents contacted spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of ISIS retaliation. Even most refugees did not want to be identified because they still had relatives in Mosul.
“We are suffering from so many problems, we feel like the living dead,” said a woman who identified herself only by the initials S. A.
In addition to American air support, President Obama this month approved 615 more American troops to aid the Mosul offensive by providing intelligence and logistical assistance. That brings the American forces in Iraq to more than 5,000.
Some in Mosul described how militants had begun going house to house to collect used tires that could be set on fire to generate smoke screens.
“We expect everything,” said Sabah al-Numan, the spokesman for the Iraqi Counterterrorism Force. “We know this is the last station for ISIS — there is nowhere else for them to go. We have to prepare for a very tough fight.”