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Braves say they take Ryan Helsley’s concerns about ‘Tomahawk Chop’ seriously

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Cardinals rookie reliever Ryan Helsley made his postseason debut in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS against the Braves in Atlanta on Thursday. Helsley, from Tahlequah, Oklahoma and a member of Cherokee Nation, saw the crowd at SunTrust Park chant as they swung their foam tomahawks, the Braves’ tradition known as the “Tomahawk Chop.”

The “Tomahawk Chop” has drawn criticism for being culturally insensitive. The Braves are not alone as Cleveland’s baseball team and the NFL’s team from Washington have also received criticism for similar reasons.

The Braves have more or less ignored the criticism, though they did phase out mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa in the late 1980’s. Meanwhile, commissioner Rob Manfred has stumbled in addressing the issue.

Helsley added his own criticism of the “Tomahawk Chop,” Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Saturday. Helsley said, “I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general. Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and it devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.”

Helsley added, “That’s the disappointing part. That stuff like this still goes on. It’s just disrespectful, I think.”

The Braves responded to Helsley’s criticism on Saturday, issuing a statement in which they said, “We appreciate and take seriously the concerns of Mr. Helsley and have worked to honor and respect the Native American community through the years. Our organization has sought to embrace all people and highlight the many cultures in Braves County. We will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the in-game experience, and look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community once the season comes to an end.”

As Goold notes, the “Tomahawk Chop” isn’t unique to the Braves. It originated with the Florida State Seminoles, who received written permission from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The “Tomahawk Chop” spread 4 hours north to Atlanta and became cemented as a tradition during the Braves’ run of excellence in the 1990’s. It is not, in the grand scheme of things, that old of a tradition. That the team and fans have held onto it to tightly says more about their being resistant to change and being told what to do.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.