Benches cleared during Saturday’s matchup between the Yankees and White Sox after Josh Donaldson made an incendiary comment directed at Chicago’s Tim Anderson, referring to the African-American ball player as “Jackie” — which the shortstop later decried as a racist reference to Jackie Robinson.
For his part, Donaldson denied any racial motivation behind the comment, and chalked up the episode to a bad joke.
The incident boiled over in the 5th inning, when Donaldson took the plate during the Yankees 7–5 winning effort, and White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal confronted him over the comment he had made earlier in the contest.
Donaldson and Grandal first exchanged words, before getting into each other’s faces — prompting home plate umpire Nick Mahrley to attempt to intervene.
Mahrley’s efforts were too late, though, as both teams rushed towards the heated confrontation, which resulted in some minor shoving, while Anderson needed to be restrained by his teammates.
Benches cleared in the Bronx!!! pic.twitter.com/sNNfq8zvQw
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) May 21, 2022
Observers at the time were left guessing at the reason for the bad blood, but Chicago manager Tony La Russa told reporters directly after the game that Donaldson had “made a racist comment.”
Anderson later shed more light on the situation, saying that Donaldson twice referred to him as “Jackie” — a reference to former Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier and became the first African American to play in the MLB in 1947.
“Basically was trying to call me Jackie Robinson, like ‘what’s up Jackie?’ I don’t play like that,” Anderson told reporters after the game. “It was disrespectful, and I don’t think it was called for. It was unnecessary.”
Chicago White Sox All-Star Tim Anderson says he was called “Jackie Robinson” multiple times by Josh Donaldson in today’s game against the Yankees. pic.twitter.com/729seehiEP
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) May 21, 2022
The first time Donaldson made the remark came during the 2nd inning, when reached 1st base on a fielder’s choice, before advancing to 2nd base and eventually scoring. He then repeated the comment later on in the game, according to Anderson.
“I spared him that time,” he said of the first incident. “And then it happened again.”
Donaldson, meanwhile, acknowledged that he made the comment, but said it was a reference to a years-prior incident when Anderson had referred to himself as “the new Jackie Robinson of baseball,” because he was bringing “fun” back into the game.
“[In] 2019, he came out with an interview and said that he’s the new Jackie Robinson of baseball,” Donaldson said. “He’s gonna bring back fun to the game. [In] 2019 when I played for Atlanta, we actually joked about that in the game.”
“I’ve said it to him in years past, not in any manner other than the fact that he called himself Jackie Robinson,” the 3rd baseman continued. “If something has changed from that… my meaning of that was not in any way trying to be racist.”
For more coverage of Josh Donaldson and the Yankees, head to amNY.com.
In the 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated, Anderson did say that he felt “like today’s Jackie Robinson,” because “he changed the game, and I feel like I’m getting to the point where I need to change the game.”
Donaldson claimed he had made similar remarks at times in the past, calling the Alabama Native “Jackie,” and Anderson “laughed.”
Josh Donaldson admits he called Tim Anderson "Jackie" on the field today: pic.twitter.com/eko1UaR3Nt
— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) May 21, 2022
MLB brass are investigating the incident, and conducting interviews with the stakeholders involved in the incident, including Josh Donaldson and Tim Anderson.
Meanwhile, Yankee manager Aaron Boone dodged questions about the altercation, and said simply after the game that he would “get to the bottom of it.”
Other observers, however, were quicker to lay blame at Donaldson’s feet, including White Sox commentator Herb Lawrence, who said Anderson’s reaction was what mattered most.
“To all the people twisting themselves into pretzels to defend Josh Donaldson, stop and just listen,” Lawrence said on Twitter. “Your opinion of this doesn’t matter. I know that’s hard for you to hear but it’s true whether you believe it or not. Tim is telling you how HE took Donaldson’s words”
The two teams are slated to face off in a double header on Sunday, with the first game beginning at 3:05 p.m..