MINNEAPOLIS — Tim Anderson won’t take Jackie Robinson Day lightly Saturday. The White Sox’ 24-year-old shortstop, like everyone else in baseball, will wear Robinson’s No. 42 to honor the man who broke the color barrier 70 years ago.
Anderson has a special appreciation for the pressure and prejudice Robinson endured when he broke into baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 “to pave the way and knock down the door for guys like us,’’ Anderson said Friday.
“[Saturday] is a special day for me,’’ Anderson said before the Sox’ 2-1 victory against the Twins at Target Field. “As an African-American, it’s a blessing to go out and play for such an amazing man like him. It’s a very special day in the game as baseball pays its respects to him.’’
Anderson, leading off a second consecutive night after he ignited the Sox’ 10-4 victory over the Indians on Thursday by launching Josh Tomlin’s first pitch for a home run, was 0-for-3 with a walk and a pair of nice plays in the field. He flew out twice to center and grounded to third as he battles through a slow start (.154 but with two homers).
Third baseman Matt Davidson broke a 1-1 tie by hitting his third homer, an opposite-field shot against Ryan Pressly to lead off the seventh.
By that time, Sox right-hander Dylan Covey was finished with a strong 90-pitch effort in his major-league debut, allowing one run despite giving up five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Dan Jennings (1-0), Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and David Robinson combined for 3 2/3 innings of one-hit ball. Robertson (0.00) collected his second save with a perfect ninth.
Anderson, who made his debut less than a year ago, already has a $25 million contract to his name because the Sox project him as a centerpiece of their rebuild. Anderson, who was still at Class AAA Charlotte on Jackie Robinson Day last season, has deep respect for what Robinson did to pave the way.
“He has had a big impact on guys like me,’’ Anderson said. “All guys, really. He’s motivating, number one, for me. If it wasn’t for him, African Americans wouldn’t be in the game. I’m very thankful for his bravery and handling what came with it and sticking up to and sticking with it and breaking in that road.
“He was strong. He went through a lot and would have been easy to break down and give up. But he fought through it.’’
It’s not lost on Anderson that he’s one of two African Americans on the Sox along with rookie Jacob May, and one of only 62 in baseball. That represents 7.1 percent of players, which is down from 17.2 percent in 1974 and is the lowest since 1958 according to numbers compiled this week by USA Today.
“One reason I play is to motivate the youth,’’ Anderson said. “Overall, kids in general but more so African Americans, motivate them and let them know ‘don’t give up on your dream.’ Have fun with it, but don’t give up because you never know how close you are.
“A lot of kids get in the wrong situations or with the wrong group of guys.’’
Anderson played baseball as a young boy but basketball was his game, and he led Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to a state title his senior year. He didn’t play serious baseball until his junior year but started attracting scouts to his games at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi.
“I made a full commitment to baseball my freshman year and my sophomore year and I knew I actually had a chance to make it my job,’’ he said. “The scouts started rolling in and my phone started buzzing. I knew I had a chance to do something special and be a professional athlete.’’
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