A new Black Sox Scandal?
The Chicago White Sox were once a great team that got involved in a scandal a century ago — the so-called "BlackSox" betting scandal, in which some Sox players were implicated in throwing games.
Because of the scandal, the World Series of 1919 became a black mark in history, and a great star, "Shoeless Joe" Jackson (who may not have been involved in the betting scandal), was tainted and thrown out of baseball. Now the White Sox are involved in another ugly scandal of their own making.
A hundred years later, the Sox, a team struggling with a much poorer record than their actual player roster would indicate, is accusing the team with the best record in baseball of racism.
Specifically, the Sox are attacking the NY Yankees' third baseman, Josh Donaldson.
The White Sox sparkplug, shortstop Tim Anderson, has been trying to heat up his teammates. This is perfectly legitimate. Anderson has particularly targeted this tactic against the Yankees, who have been beating the Sox in most recent games, sometimes by just one or two heartbreaking runs.
Anderson has played "mind games" with some of the Yankee players, like pitcher Nestor Cortes, ducking in and out of the batter's box to throw off the pitcher's rhythm, etc.
This, too, is perfectly legitimate. Players do it to each other all the time, and not just in baseball. (Incidentally, some of the things that professional athletes say to one another or shout at each other is not the kind of thing you would want to hear at your kitchen table or in your house of worship. Just ask people about some of the trash talk from champion basketball players like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan.)
For their part, the Yankees have a few players who play hard, too. Nestor Cortes is a new Yankee pitcher doing unusually well in his first real starting year. "Nasty Nestor" is known for his quick and sometimes irregular pitching angles and rhythms.
He reminds me a bit of Whitey Ford, the great Yankee lefty who won with control and cunning rather than overpowering speed. Despite Anderson's efforts, Nestor smiled behind his mustache, held his pitching tempo, and won the game.
Josh Donaldson, a former MVP (2015), is also a guy who plays hard and laughs at Anderson. In a recent game, Donaldson tagged Anderson, who slid into third base. Donaldson "encouraged" Anderson to slide off the bag. Players do it all the time. It's legitimate because players often over-slide or slide late or early and have trouble staying on the bag. That's why umpires are on the scene to judge if the baserunner was pushed or illegally blocked from the bag by the fielder. Umps make the final call.
Anderson tried to use the incident to get his players pumped up. That failed, and the Sox lost to the Yankees.
That was more than a week ago.
This week, the Yankees were beating the Sox again in another close game, and the paths of Anderson and Donaldson crossed on the field. Words were exchanged.
Anderson exploded, trying to start another bench-clearing showdown, claiming that Donaldson had yelled "racist" comments at him because Donaldson had called him "Jackie."
Donaldson admits it but says Anderson first called himself a kind of "Jackie Robinson," referring to the first African-American in the Major Leagues. Anderson was apparently trying to emulate the great Brooklyn Dodger infielder who inspired his team with his tough play and hustle.
Donaldson has laughed at the charge of racism, saying he did indeed call Anderson "Jackie" because he was making fun of Anderson's high opinion of himself.
Donaldson was deriding Anderson's pompous view of himself, and he was undoubtedly trying to get under his skin, just as Anderson was trying to get under the skin of the Yankees.
This is all regular baseball banter and maneuvering. Throwing the race cards, as the Sox are doing, is taking it too far.
The Chicago White Sox need good hitting and pitching, not players who call themselves Jackie Robinson and act like Jussie Smollett.
Dr. Michael Widlanski is a former reporter and college professor who was the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat (Threshold-Simon and Schuster). He roots for the Yankees.
Image: Public Domain.