White Sox Manager Tony La Russa didn’t mince words when he was asked what happened between Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson and Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson on Saturday.
“He made a racist comment,” La Russa said of Donaldson. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
Shortly after the Yankees beat Chicago at Yankee Stadium, 7-5, Donaldson, who is white, admitted to calling Anderson, who is Black, “Jackie” in the first inning. Anderson said it happened twice in the game. Anderson deemed the reference to Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, “disrespectful” before agreeing with his manager that the remark was racist.
“Basically, he was trying to call me Jackie Robinson,” Anderson said. “He was like, ‘Hey, what’s up Jackie?’ I don’t play like that. I don’t really play at all. I wasn’t really going to bother nobody today, but he made the comment, and you know, it was disrespectful and I don’t think it was called for. It was unnecessary.”
Anderson and Donaldson exchanged words on the field early in the game. The situation escalated in the fifth inning when White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal confronted Donaldson as he stepped into the batter’s box. Grandal, pointing toward Anderson at shortstop, got face to face with Donaldson, and the benches cleared. Anderson, jogging in from short, was restrained by teammates and kept away from Donaldson. There were no punches thrown.
“This game went through a period in time where a lot of those comments were meant, and I think we’re way past that,” Grandal said after the game. “It’s just unacceptable. I just thought it was a low blow, and I want to make sure I’ve got my team’s back. There’s no way that you’re allowed to say something like that.
“Believe me, you don’t want me to tell you guys what I told him.”
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said he needed to get to the bottom of Chicago’s accusation before commenting further. Major League Baseball will investigate the situation, per Newsday’s Laura Albanese.
Donaldson, meanwhile, said he has been calling Anderson “Jackie” for years. He claimed it was a long-running joke between them, stemming from a 2019 Sports Illustrated article in which Anderson said, “I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson.”
Anderson was speaking on his desire to introduce more personality and flair to baseball’s traditionally reserved culture, an effort that Anderson has received pushback for at times during his career.
“So first inning, I called him ‘Jackie.’ Let me give you a little context of that,” Donaldson began. “In 2019, he came out with an interview, said that he’s the new Jackie Robinson of baseball and he’s going to bring back fun for the game, right? In 2019, when I played for Atlanta, we actually joked about that in the game.
“I don’t know what’s changed, and I’ve said it to him in years past. Not in any manner than just joking around for the fact that he called himself Jackie Robinson. So if something has changed from that — my meaning of that is not in any term trying to be racist by any fact of the matter. It was just off an interview.”
Donaldson added: “Obviously, he deemed that it was disrespectful. And look, if he did, I apologize. That’s not what I was trying to do, by any manner.”
For Anderson, there was no humor to be found.
“That happened in the first, the first time he got on, and I spared him that time,” Anderson said. “And then it happened again. It’s just uncalled for.”
Donaldson said he would be open to having a private conversation with Anderson. His characterization of the situation raised some eyebrows, though, as Anderson and the White Sox have not had a good recent history with Donaldson. Just last week, Anderson took exception to a physical tag from Donaldson when the teams played in Chicago. On an attempted pickoff play at third base, Donaldson pushed Anderson off the bag, ultimately resulting in a safe call. That resulted in an exchange of words and a modest bench clearing.
Donaldson also had run-ins with the White Sox in 2021 while he was a member of the Twins, who, like Chicago, play in the American League Central. In one such matchup, Donaldson homered off the White Sox ace Lucas Giolito. As Donaldson crossed home plate, he could be heard yelling, “Hands not sticky anymore,” a nod to M.L.B.’s crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances.
Afterward, Giolito called Donaldson a “pest” and said that if the infielder had a problem with him, he should say so to his face. Donaldson then told reporters that he confronted Giolito in the stadium’s parking lot.
On Saturday, Donaldson said that he took responsibility for last week’s tag on Anderson and was trying to “make light” of the ongoing tension in an attempt to defuse things. “We’re not trying to start any brawls or anything like that,” Donaldson said.
The White Sox, who finish their regular-season series with the Yankees with a Sunday doubleheader, didn’t see it that way.
“He lives in his own world,” Grandal said of Donaldson while also bringing up the dispute with Giolito.
“I’m sure any other team would have reacted the same way. Like I said, a comment like that is just unacceptable.”