Josh Donaldson has felt the effects of calling Tim Anderson “Jackie,” a reference to Jackie Robinson that Chicago White Sox Manager Tony La Russa called “racist,” from his own New York Yankees teammates.
Although Manager Aaron Boone said he did not believe Donaldson had “malicious intent,” he added at the time, “This is just my opinion — [that’s] somewhere he should not be going.” Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ star outfielder, had added, “I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do there.”
Donaldson told reporters Wednesday during batting practice: “That was tough to hear, for sure, just for the simple fact that I pride myself on being a good teammate. And everywhere I’ve went, every organization that I’ve been a part of, minus Oakland, has offered me extensions, has wanted me to stay back.
“They’ve showed that they wanted me [to be] a part of their team. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way, and that’s just the business end of it. And also everywhere I went, I’ve won. I think part of winning is having good team chemistry, and I’ve taken pride everywhere I’ve went [that] I’ve always tried to help people try to get better.”
Acquired by the Yankees in March, Donaldson, who has played for six major league teams, is hitting .238 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 37 games. Tempers flared during New York’s 7-5 victory May 21 at Yankee Stadium; Donaldson, who is White, admitted that in the first inning he called Anderson, who is among baseball’s leading Black voices, “Jackie,” a reference to Robinson, who broke MLB’s color barrier in 1947.
The situation escalated in the fifth when White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal confronted Donaldson as he stepped into the batter’s box. Grandal pointed toward Anderson at shortstop, and the benches cleared. Anderson jogged in and was restrained by teammates. No punches were thrown.
“Basically, he was trying to call me Jackie Robinson,” Anderson said that day. “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.”
Donaldson said he had called Anderson “Jackie” previously and said it was meant as a flippant reference to a 2019 Sports Illustrated article in which Anderson said he felt a little “like today’s Jackie Robinson. … I feel like I’m getting to a point to where I need to change the game.”
Donaldson has apologized to the Robinson family but said he hasn’t “had a chance to talk” to Anderson.
“I think everybody wanted to have a say, but they don’t know my heart,” Donaldson said. “I do feel bad that the Robinson family — I never wanted them to feel their name should ever be regarded in a bad light. That was why I issued the apology [to them].”
Liam Hendriks, a White Sox reliever and former teammate of Donaldson’s, said he is “not a fan” of the three-time all-star, who was the 2015 American League MVP with Toronto.
“I know Liam has come out a couple times and said some stuff about me,” Donaldson said. “It’s weird because I hear one thing and then when I see him it’s different. So it’s definitely been confusing for that. I’m not saying that every one of my teammates I have always been best friends with.”
The Yankees and White Sox have had past flare-ups, Donaldson noted.
“I should not talk to these guys anymore, just because I don’t ever want to be brought up in that light or that spectacle,” he said. “It’s been tough.”