By the end of the evening, it seemed nobody who was actually involved in the play thought Glenn Sparkman hit Tim Anderson on purpose.
But Anderson’s opinion on the Royals doesn’t really fluctuate much anymore.
“From my end, I don’t like the Royals. I don’t like them,” Anderson said after the White Sox completed a sweep of their division rivals Wednesday night. “It’s going to be a forever beef for me. But we are going to try to whoop them every time we play them.
“Just period, man. I don’t like them.”
That’s the eye-catcher from Anderson’s comments, which were otherwise mostly understanding about the 1-0 changeup that left Sparkman’s hand in the bottom of the second inning and nearly hit Anderson in the head, clipping the bill of his batting helmet and earning Sparkman an immediate ejection.
Sparkman hits Anderson in the head. Sparkman ejected immediately. pic.twitter.com/lgRhjFF4Ku— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) May 30, 2019
It didn’t look like the kind of pitch a pitcher throws in retaliation. But the context was too much not to notice.
It was Anderson’s first plate appearance since the April 13 brouhaha in which Brad Keller responded to an Anderson bat flip by plunking the shortstop. That cleared the benches, and during the to-be-expected chirping, Anderson used a racially charged word that earned him an ejection and a suspension.
That wasn’t even the first incident between Anderson and the Royals, who got mad at the White Sox shortstop during the 2018 season, too. Throw in the fact that in the top half of the second inning Wednesday night, Reynaldo Lopez lost control of a 95 mph fastball that went smoking toward the face of Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier.
It all seemed to make for a dramatic scene in which Anderson was once again the subject of the Royals’ ire. The umpiring crew knew the history, and that’s why home-plate umpire Mark Carlson tossed Sparkman right away, so the umpire told a pool reporter after the game. But Anderson and manager Rick Renteria both said after the game they didn’t think Sparkman was trying to hit Anderson on purpose.
“I knew it was an accident. I saw it on his face. He was looking scared,” Anderson said. “It was a changeup that got away from him. It was just a tough moment for me, but I was able to control myself and stay in the game.”
“The poor guy,” Renteria said. “Personally, I don't think the kid was throwing at him. The changeup got away from him is what I believe. Maybe they were on high alert, I don't know. I certainly do not believe he was trying to hit Tim.”
But that doesn’t mean that Anderson didn’t savor the sweetness of his game-winning double in the eighth inning.
Anderson didn’t get to bat against the Royals in the first two games of this series, limited to one pinch-running appearance while nursing a wrist injury. But he was back in the lineup Wednesday, only for his first plate appearance against this team to end the same way as his previous one did: with a hit by pitch. This time, he actually made it to first base, but the bigger moment came in the eighth, when after White Sox pitching blew a 7-1 lead, Anderson broke a 7-all tie by doubling down the left-field line.
“I was able to get the hit to win the game,” Anderson said. “It was payback. It felt good, man.
“You see me at second? Yeah, that got me going. It got the guys going. It was a huge hit and a huge moment.”
Neither the White Sox nor the Royals have had much to get excited about during the two seasons Anderson has been beefing with the Kansas City baseball club. The two teams combined for more than 200 losses in 2018. While the White Sox are in the midst of a much better season now, they’re still under .500 at 26-29. The Royals are way below .500, at 18-37 after Wednesday’s loss.
But this has added some fuel to this division rivalry. Anderson might not like the Royals, but he’s amped every time he sees them.
“That gets me going. I’m excited to play them,” Anderson said. “I want to whoop them every time we play them.”