A heated afternoon on the field continued off it afterward, with Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson taking offense to being called “Jackie” by the New York Yankees’ Josh Donaldson, a comment deemed “racist” by manager Tony La Russa.
Donaldson admitted after the game to calling Anderson “Jackie” — a nod to Jackie Robinson — in the first inning. He apologized, saying he meant no disrespect. However, Anderson, who is Black, said after the game that he took offense to the comment.
“He just made a disrespectful comment,” Anderson said. “Basically he was trying to call me Jackie Robinson. ‘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.”
Donaldson, who is white, said the “Jackie” comment was in reference to a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated in which Anderson described himself as feeling like “today’s Jackie Robinson” in how he’s “getting to a point where I need to change the game.”
Donaldson on Saturday said it was a reference about which he’s “joked around” with Anderson about it in the past.
Major League Baseball is looking into the matter and speaking to all of the relevant parties involved, a source told ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez.
Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947. Every team in the big leagues has retired his No. 42 to honor the struggle, sacrifice and social impact he had on the game and beyond.
In the third inning, Donaldson had rounded second base after the final out and began jawing with Anderson as the teams came off the field. Donaldson, a former AL MVP in his first season with the Yankees, was escorted off the field by manager Aaron Boone, and Anderson, an All-Star shortstop, was led off by third-base coach Joe McEwing.
“He made a racist comment, Donaldson, and that’s all I’m going to say. That’s as strong as it gets,” La Russa said.
Asked if he agreed with La Russa, Anderson said, “Same. Same. Along that same line.”
Donaldson, who said he told his side of the story to his Yankees teammates, told reporters that he would be open to meeting with Anderson to discuss the incident.
“My meaning of that is not any term trying to be racist by any fact of the matter,” Donaldson said. “Obviously, he deemed it disrespectful. And look, if he did, I apologize. That’s not what I was trying to do by any manner and that’s what happened.”
The Yankees and White Sox had the benches clear May 13 in Chicago when Anderson objected to a hard tag by Donaldson.
Donaldson said Saturday that he was “trying to defuse” any lingering tension when the players crossed paths early in the game.
In the fifth inning of the Saturday game, White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal stood up from his crouch and began jawing at Donaldson as he approached the plate. The barking continued as relievers ran in from the bullpens and the benches emptied, with La Russa also yelling at Donaldson.
“Believe me, you don’t want me to tell you guys what I told him,” Grandal said to reporters.
Anderson continued to shout at Donaldson while being restrained by Jose Abreu and infielder Gavin Sheets. After a few minutes, umpires issued warnings to both sides and Donaldson struck out.
“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. “And 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.”
Said Boone of the incident: “I know … some talk of that. I’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”
The White Sox and Yankees are scheduled to play for the final time in the regular season in a doubleheader on Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.