A weekly look at the biggest talking points in the NFL

Baseball: White Sox sign Belle for a cool $50m

The Chicago White Sox have made Albert Belle the game's highest-paid player, signing him to a five-year contract estimated to be worth more than $50m (pounds 30m).

Baseball: City enthralled by Yankees

If you have friends in New York, do not try to call them tonight. Phones will be off the hook across the city as the World Series returns from Atlanta to the Bronx and the New York Yankees attempt to turn their thrilling come-back against the Atlanta Braves into final and magnificent victory.

Yankees given hope by Williams


postcard; FROM NEW YORK

A whole new ball game: Imagine if the Prince of Wales were to appear in public one morning with delicate, well-proportioned ears, or if Arsenal fans were to turn up for a match dead sober and singing hymns. There might be a moment of relief, but it would quickly be engulfed by the loud resentment of the angry multitudes. When something famously horrible stops being horrible, the public's expectation is betrayed, leaving people painfully in need of a new institution of public derision. That is pretty much the state that New Yorkers found themselves in last week, as the no-good Yankees -or, as the Broadway musical styles them, the "Damn Yankees," - reformed themselves, winning the American League baseball pennant after 15 consecutive years of defeat and shame. For the first time since 1981, the Yankees have a chance at winning the World Series, and the Bronx's Yankee Stadium is not lying fallow at Series time. In other words, those low-down, scum-sucking, Steinbrenner-tormented, pennant- losing Yankee devils are once again the beloved Bronx Bombers, and everyone's favourite angels in the outfield.

Yankees triumph

The New York Yankees put together six runs on three homers in the third inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-4 and reach their first World Series since 1981 against St Louis Cardinals or Atlanta Braves.

Umpires may still strike despite Alomar's ban for spitting

Roberto Alomar, the Baltimore Orioles' second baseman, will serve his five-game suspension for spitting at an umpire next season after withdrawing his appeal against the ban. However, this still leaves the umpires to decide whether to boycott further matches in the divisional play-offs of the American and National Leagues in protest of what they believe is a too lenient penalty.

Self-interested game spits in the public's face

Rupert Cornwell reports from Washington on the affair that threatens baseball's play-offs

Spitting spat puts play-offs in a spin

A threat by umpires to boycott the play-offs after a player spat at an official was yesterday called off at the last minute.

Enlarged play-offs provide thrilling finale

Rupert Cornwell on the season when baseball's record books were rewritten

Baltimore Orioles beat Detroit Tigers 5-4


Invasion of the slugfest makes baseball tedious

SPORT IN ANOTHER COUNTRY : Rupert Cornwell, in Washington, yearns for the pitching duels of summers past

Say hello to Big Frank, a rough diamond

BEING THERE; Simon Garfield goes to Hull and back to watch Britain in the quest to escape the minor leagues of European baseball

Broken nose fails to break Ripken's run

Cal Ripken, who has played 2,239 successive games without breaking a bone, broke his nose during a team photo session before the major league All-Star game in Philadelphia yesterday.

Snow stops start of season

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Career Services

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas