NEW YORK – The gesture was universal, unmistakable, irrefutable. Tim Anderson stepped on home plate, cast his gaze toward the Yankee Stadium grandstand and pressed his left index finger to his lips. If there was any doubt what Anderson meant, in the second game of a doubleheader his White Sox swept, a hot mic on ESPN caught his sentiment.
“Making motherfuckers shut the fuck up,” Anderson said.
He had reason to celebrate the subsequent silence. Taunted by Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson on Saturday, booed by thousands in The Bronx on Sunday, Anderson delivered the final word with a three-run blast in the eighth inning of a 5-0 victory in the nightcap. His homer ushered his antagonists toward the exits. The cauldron of noise had been unkind to him throughout the evening. The fans jeered his every arrival to the plate. A few brayed “Jackie,” as in Jackie Robinson, the name of the icon used by Donaldson to tease Anderson in the initial dust-up.
Through a White Sox spokesman, Anderson declined to speak with reporters after the game. His bat had said plenty. His teammates said the rest.
“Tim’s going to show up, every day, ready to play and lead this team,” said starter Michael Kopech, who spun seven scoreless innings in Game 2 after the White Sox took Game 1, 3-1. “He did that again tonight. That was just one of the cooler things I’ve seen, watching an entire crowd, that’s showing low class towards him, booing him, calling him ‘Jackie’ and all that stuff.
“And then hitting a homer and putting us right back in a good position to win. I’ve got nothing but respect for him. ”
Anderson had not asked for this treatment. He found himself drawing the ire of Yankees fans after jawing with Donaldson on Saturday. On multiple occasions, Anderson and Donaldson said, the Yankees third baseman had referred to the White Sox shortstop as “Jackie.” Donaldson described this as an inside joke. Anderson did not find it funny.
In the postgame tumult Saturday, White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Donaldson had made a racist remark. Anderson agreed with that assessment. “He just made a disrespectful comment,” Anderson said. Donaldson protested otherwise. “My meaning of that is not in any term trying to be racist, by any fact of the matter,” Donaldson said. “It was just off an interview.”
Donaldson, who did not speak to reporters Sunday, had indicated he was open to a conversation with Anderson to clear the air. The two men did not speak Sunday, said a Yankees spokesman.
To the White Sox, even in the most charitable reading, Donaldson was guilty of bad taste and poor timing. He made the comment to Anderson twice: “What’s up, Jackie?” If this was a shared joke, as Donaldson insisted, Anderson showed no amusement upon the first interaction. A couple of White Sox players separated Anderson from Donaldson after the second time. Later in the game, White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal confronted Donaldson, which caused the benches to clear.
Donaldson said he was taking part in the recitation of a routine dating back to 2019, when Anderson initially drew a comparison between himself and Robinson in an interview with Sports Illustrated. Anderson, a Black man from Alabama, has often spoken about both his debt to pioneers like Robinson and his own place within the lineage of Black American baseball players.
No one disputed the origin of Donaldson’s statements. But Anderson and his teammates saw little humor in them.
Liam Hendriks, the Chicago closer who played with Donaldson in Toronto, offered a stinging rebuke of his former teammate. Hendriks said Donaldson’s explanation was “just straight delusional.”
“Usually you have inside jokes with people you get along with – not people who do not get along at all,” Hendriks said. “So that statement right there was complete bullshit.”
Major League Baseball has opened an investigation into the incident. Before the first game Sunday, La Russa said he was curious to see when the Yankees organization would address Donaldson’s comments. “I’m anxious to know what the Yankees will say, because MLB has been crystal clear for years about how they feel about something like that,” La Russa said.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone indicated he understood the context of what Donaldson said. He still did not endorse it. “I do not believe there was any malicious intent in that regard,” Boone said. “But this is, just in my opinion, somewhere he should not be going.”
The history between Donaldson and the White Sox is lengthy and checkered. Hendriks has ripped him in the past. There was a spat last year with Lucas Giolito. Anderson and Donaldson had a row in Chicago last week, when Anderson felt Donaldson bumped him off the bag on a play at third base.
Donaldson was not in the lineup in Sunday’s second game, when Anderson took the field. La Russa had held Anderson out of the matinee, at the behest of the training staff, to rest Anderson’s legs. The shortstop rewarded the manager with a three-hit night and the defining stroke in the eighth.
Anderson stepped to the plate with two outs in the frame, with the White Sox having just pulled ahead on RBI singles from outfielder Andrew Vaughn and catcher Reese McGuire. As it had an eye on Anderson’s four previous at-bats, the crowd serenaded Anderson with venom.
“People say ‘the good get booed,'” Vaughn said. “And I think he’s one of the best.”
Anderson showed why on a 1-1 slider from Yankees reliever Miguel Castro. The pitch hung over the plate. Anderson smashed it to the opposite field over the fence in right. He waved farewell to the crowd as he approached first base. A procession of White Sox greeted Anderson after he shushed the thousands in attendance.
It was his fifth homer of the season, which is shaping up as Anderson’s best. After winning the Silver Slugger award for shortstops in 2020, Anderson made his first All-Star team last year. His output Sunday boosted his OPS to a career-best .917.
“This guy, he’s as good as anybody playing, at that position,” La Russa said. “He’s one of the best players in baseball. He deserves the recognition. And he deserves the respect. When somebody disrespects him, he should get upset. I know I would. ”
As the evening wore on, as Anderson kept hearing the jeers, La Russa found himself stumped. Why, he wondered, would anyone want to boo Tim Anderson?
He could not understand it. But he could marvel at how Anderson responded.
“When you talk about how special he is, think about the game he had, under those circumstances,” La Russa said. “That made it special. But he had that kind of game a lot this year. ”
(Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)