🏈 The plot thickens: Connor Stalions, the Michigan staffer at the center of an NCAA investigation, reportedly purchased tickets to a long list of games involving Big Ten teams and CFP contenders in what appears to be an elaborate scheme to record play-call signals.
🏳️🌈 NHL changes stance: The NHL has lifted its ban on players using stick tape to support social causes, including the popular rainbow-colored Pride Tape. This comes after Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott openly defied the ban on Saturday.
⚾️ Red Sox get their guy: Cubs assistant GM Craig Breslow is set to become the new head of baseball operations for the Red Sox. The former lefty reliever played five seasons in Boston and was part of their 2013 championship team.
🏀 Preseason All-Americans: Caitlin Clark (Iowa), Angel Reese (LSU), Elizabeth Kitley (Virginia Tech), Cameron Brink (Stanford), Paige Bueckers (UConn) and Mackenzie Holmes (Indiana) headline the AP preseason women's basketball All-America team.
⚾️ Back to the Bay: The Giants are expected to hire Bay Area native Bob Melvin as their next skipper. Melvin managed the Athletics for 11 seasons (2011-21) before taking over in San Diego, where he went 171-153 over the last two seasons.
⚾️ THE WORLD SERIES IS SET
The Diamondbacks stunned the Phillies on Tuesday with a 4-2 win in Game 7, quieting Citizens Bank Park for a second straight night to advance to their first World Series since their seven-game victory over the Yankees in 2001.
Historic turnarounds: The Rangers and Diamondbacks are the fifth and sixth teams in MLB history to reach the World Series within two years of losing 100+ games.
1914 Boston Braves (101 losses in 1912)
1967 Red Sox (100 losses in 1965)
1969 Mets (101 losses in 1967)
2008 Rays (101 losses in 2006)
2023 Rangers (102 losses in 2021)
2023 D-backs (110 losses in 2021)
An improbable matchup: Arizona arrived at spring training with 125-1 title odds (via BetMGM) and Texas was at 50-1. Both teams barely snuck into the postseason as wild cards, and the Diamondbacks wouldn't have even made the field under the previous 10-team format.
Fewest combined wins: The 174 combined wins between the Rangers (90) and Diamondbacks (84) are the fewest in World Series history. Cue the "contract the playoffs and give the regular season more meaning!" crowd.
DAL vs. PHX: This will be the fourth postseason meeting between "Big Four" teams from Dallas and Phoenix. The Cardinals beat the Cowboys in the 1998 playoffs, and the Mavericks hold a 2-1 playoff series edge over the Suns.
Home-field disadvantage: It's well-documented that home-field advantage has all but disappeared in the NFL. Is MLB experiencing something similar? Road teams are 22-14 this postseason and teams facing elimination at home are now 0-5 (Phillies, Astros, Twins, Brewers, Rays).
Salary gap: The Rangers rank fourth in 2023 payroll ($251.3 million), while the D-backs rank 21st ($119.3 million). Texas is paying four players $20+ million (Corey Seager, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Marcus Semien). Arizona's largest check is $11.6 million (Ketel Marte).
World Series schedule: Arlington's Globe Life Field hosts Games 1-2 and 6-7, while Phoenix's Chase Field hosts Games 3-5. All games start at 8:03pm ET on Fox.
Game 1: Friday, Oct. 27
Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 28
Game 3: Monday, Oct. 30
Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 31
Game 5: Wednesday, Nov. 1
Game 6: Friday, Nov. 3
Game 7: Saturday, Nov. 4
The last word: Hot take artist Chris "Mad Dog" Russo vowed to retire from sports radio "on the spot" if Arizona won the NLCS. D-backs manager Torey Lovullo smiled when he was told about that before Tuesday"s game. Then he said what many Americans were surely thinking…
"I would love to see him quit if we won today. There's nothing better than a wise guy New Yorker saying something and then having to chomp on those words."
📸 PHOTOS OF THE NIGHT
Denver — The defending champion Nuggets raised their banner and got their rings on opening night, then picked up right where they left off, beating LeBron James (21-8-5) and the Lakers, 119-107, behind Nikola Jokić's triple-double (29-13-11).
San Francisco — Tuesday was a great day to be a Phoenix sports fan. Devin Booker (32-6-8) and Kevin Durant (18 points) led the Suns past Steph Curry (24 points), Chris Paul (17-6-9) and the Warriors, 108-104, in a highly-entertaining nightcap.
Montreal — With four assists in the Devils' 5-2 win over the Canadiens, Jack Hughes became the first player with at least 14 points in his team's first five games since Mario Lemieux in 1992, ESPN notes. Reminder: He's only 22 years old.
⚾️ FORMER MLB PLAYERS FLOCK TO DUBAI-BASED LEAGUE
Robinson Canó, Bartolo Colon and Didi Gregorius are among several former major leaguers selected in the inaugural draft of a Dubai-based baseball league called Baseball United.
Details: The league has former MLB players Mariano Rivera, Barry Larkin, Adrián Beltré and Félix Hernández on its executive team and Elvis Andrus, Ryan Howard and Nick Swisher among its ownership group. It will begin play next fall.
Former MLB players Pablo Sandoval, Andrelton Simmons, Jair Jurrjens and Rusney Castillo were also drafted out of a pool of 200 players from more than 30 countries.
In total, 64 players were selected by the league's four teams: the Mumbai Cobras, Abu Dhabi Falcons, Dubai Wolves and Karachi Monarchs (managed by 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada).
Karan Patel, a pitcher who became the first player of Indian descent drafted by an MLB team when he was selected by the White Sox in 2017, was picked No. 1 overall by the Cobras.
Cricket/baseball overlap: Baseball United believes it can attract cricket fans to baseball, the latest example of the different (yet similar) bat-and-ball sports overlapping. MLB plays annual games in cricket-mad London and Major League Cricket launched in the U.S. this summer.
Rivera believes bringing baseball to this region could unearth hidden talent. "This part of the world, they have players. We just haven't found them yet," the Hall of Famer told me last year.
"I want to bring baseball to all the people waiting for us to teach them. This is a game that I love and will continue to love until the day that I die."
Coming up: Baseball United's four teams will play an All-Star showcase next month at Dubai International Stadium, one year before the league officially begins.
Yahoo Sports' Sean Leahy contributed reporting.
🎾 SHELTON'S METEORIC RISE
Ben Shelton won the Japan Open on Sunday for his first career ATP Tour title, vaulting him to world No. 15 at just 21 years of age, Jeff writes.
A meteoric rise: 17 months ago, Shelton was a sophomore at the University of Florida and ranked No. 547 in the world. Now, he's part of the first quartet of American men to be ranked in the top 15 since 1997.
May 28, 2022: Shelton, 19, wins the NCAA singles title at Florida, where his father Bryan — a former pro* — was the coach. (New ranking: No. 442)
Aug. 23, 2022: A month after making his ATP Tour debut, he announces that he's turning pro instead of returning to college. (No. 171)
Jan. 24, 2023: He reaches the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in his second major appearance, losing to fellow American Tommy Paul. (No. 44)
Sep. 8, 2023: At 20, he becomes the youngest American man to reach the US Open semifinals since Andy Roddick in 2003. (No. 19)
Oct. 22, 2023: He defeats Aslan Karatsev in straight sets in the Japan Open final for his first ATP Tour title. (No. 15)
What's next: Shelton is already in Vienna for his next tournament, where he'll face No. 4 Jannik Sinner today in the Round of 32.
*Fun fact: Ben and Bryan Shelton are the fourth father-son duo to both win ATP Tour titles, joining Petr and Sebastian Korda, Phil and Taylor Dent and Ramanathan and Ramesh Krishnan.
🏈 NFL POWER RANKINGS, WEEK 8
The defending champs are back on top, as the Chiefs' six-game winning streak has vaulted them to No. 1 in this week's NFL power rankings from Yahoo's Frank Schwab.
Rising and falling: The Bills fell five spots to No. 10 after their stunning loss to the Patriots, and the Vikings climbed seven spots to No. 15 after handing the 49ers their second straight defeat.
Chiefs: 6-1 (up 2)
Eagles: 6-1 (up 2)
49ers: 5-2 (down 2)
Ravens: 5-2 (up 4)
Dolphins: 5-2 (up 1)
Lions: 5-2 (down 4)
Cowboys: 4-2 (–)
Jaguars: 5-2 (up 2)
Browns: 4-2 (–)
Bills: 4-3 (down 5)
Seahawks: 4-2 (–)
Bengals: 3-3 (–)
Jets: 3-3 (–)
Steelers: 4-2 (up 2)
Vikings: 3-4 (up 7)
Falcons: 4-3 (up 5)
Chargers: 2-4 (down 3)
Texans: 3-3 (–)
Buccaneers: 3-3 (down 4)
Colts: 3-4 (–)
Rams: 3-4 (down 4)
Saints: 3-4 (down 3)
Raiders: 3-4 (–)
Broncos: 2-5 (up 4)
Titans: 2-4 (up 1)
Commanders: 3-4 (down 2)
Patriots: 2-5 (up 4)
Packers: 2-4 (down 3)
Bears: 2-5 (–)
Giants: 2-5 (–)
Cardinals: 1-6 (down 4)
Panthers: 0-6 (–)
Coming up: The Bills host the Bucs on Thursday night, the Chargers host the Bears on Sunday night and the Lions host the Raiders on Monday night.
📆 OCT. 25, 1986: THROUGH BUCKNER'S LEGS
37 years ago today, the Red Sox lost Game 6 of the World Series when a weak grounder to first got through Bill Buckner's legs in one of the most infamous moments in MLB history, Jeff writes.
Context: Boston was up 5-3 and one out away from their first title in 68 years. Then the Mets tied the game on three straight singles and a wild pitch before Mookie Wilson’s grounder dribbled through Buckner's legs.
Aftermath: The Mets won Game 7 two days later, and Buckner was roundly derided by Red Sox fans for his role in continuing the Curse of the Bambino.
🏈 1964: Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall recovered a 49ers fumble and returned it 66 yards to the wrong end zone for a safety in a gaffe dubbed "The Wrong Way Run."
⚾️ 1978: Padres righty Gaylord Perry won the NL Cy Young, becoming the first of six pitchers* to win the award in both leagues after winning with the Indians six years earlier.
*The other five: Pedro Martínez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer. 2018 AL Cy Young Blake Snell, who's favored to win this year with the Padres, could join them soon.
📺 WATCHLIST: WEMBY'S DEBUT
Victor Wembanyama, the most hyped rookie since LeBron James, makes his NBA debut tonight in the second leg of ESPN's doubleheader, Jeff writes.
More to watch:
🏒 NHL:Capitals at Devils (7:30pm, TNT/Max)
⛳️ NCAA Golf:St. Andrews Links Collegiate (9am, Golf/Peacock) … Vanderbilt and UNC will play for the men's and women's team titles.
⛳️ LPGA:Maybank Championship (10pm, Golf) … In Malaysia.
*What's next: The New York/Charlotte winner will face East No. 1 seed Cincinnati, and the KC/San Jose winner will face West No. 1 seed St. Louis in Round One, which is a best-of-three series.
🏈 NFL TRIVIA
Only two NFL teams have a football in their logo.
Question: Can you name them?
Hint: Both on the East Coast.
Answer at the bottom.
🎶 CREED IS HAVING A MOMENT
Creed peaked in popularity in the early 2000s*. A quarter-century later, the post-grunge band is having a sports moment.
They were the Rangers' go-to band during the second half of the regular season and helped power them to the World Series. Players could be heard singing their song "Higher" while celebrating their Game 7 win.
The Vikings started playing Creed in the locker room after their 0-3 start and have since won three of four games. Kirk Cousins credited the band with helping them beat the Bears last week and beat the 49ers on Monday night.
Cousins: "I gotta say it, Creed. It was really good morale. They keep playing 'Higher,' and I'm going Creed has a lot of good hits, they've got a good catalog, we don't only have to play 'Higher.' But they're taking us higher, so we'll take it."
Greatest hits: Start your morning off right with Scott Stapp's wonderfully over-the-top vocals…
*Fun fact: Creed was the ninth best-selling musical act of the 2000s, trailing only Eminem, The Beatles, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Britney Spears, Kenny Chesney, Nelly and Linkin Park.
Trivia answer: Jets and Buccaneers