“Down Goes Anderson!”

Once upon a time, Tim Anderson said he wanted to be today's Jackie Robinson when it came to putting the fun back into baseball on the field. When the Yankees' Josh Donaldson greeted him with, "Hi, Jackie," during a game last year, the White Sox shortstop decided the joke's shelf life expired not long after Donaldson first dropped it on him a couple of years earlier.

The benches and pens emptied, and Anderson's White Sox teammates urged and nudged him back to the dugout before any serious damage could be done. The following day, Anderson — hammered with "Jack-ie, Jack-ie!" catcalls most of the day by the Yankee Stadium crowd — smashed a 3-run homer that finished a doubleheader sweep, holding an index finger to his lips as a "shush" gesture to the catcallers.

But that was then and this was Saturday in Cleveland against the Guardians. In the sixth inning, Guards' star José Ramírez went diving into second to beat a throw in from the outfield and finish his stretch into an RBI double. He slid right between Anderson's legs.

Anderson had infuriated the Guards the night before with a tag knocking rookie Brayan Rocchio off the base, turning a double into an out when the original safe call was reversed rather controversially. Now, he seemed to try dropping a too-hard tag upon Ramírez to no avail. According to Ramírez, Anderson said he wanted to fight.

Ramírez held up his right arm as if hoping Anderson might help him up from the ground. Getting none, Ramírez rose on his own and pointed at Anderson, apparently objecting again to Anderson's needlessly harsh tagging. Anderson assumed a boxing position as rookie umpire Malachi Moore tried to keep the pair separated.

Oops. Moore decided the better part of valor was to back away. Anderson threw a pair of rights as players on both sides approached. Then, somehow, some way, Ramírez swung a slightly wild right that caught Anderson flush on the left side of his face and knocked him to the ground. It was like Argentine boxing legend Oscar Bonavena's wild punching style before Muhammad Ali outlasted him in 1970.

Guardians broadcaster Tom Hamilton couldn't resist referencing another Ali fight when Ramírez connected: "Down goes Anderson! Down goes Anderson!" That went almost as viral as the scrum itself.

This wasn't the usual bench-clearing incident in which the "brawl" was usually just a lot of hollering, shoving, more hollering, more shoving. This was two players swinging as if they'd mistaken themselves for hockey players. "It's not funny," said Guards manager Terry Francona post-game, "but coming [into the clubhouse] and listening to Hammy, it's hard not to chuckle."

It might have been Francona's only chuckle of the evening. Not only did the White Sox finish what they started, a rather rare win, but Francona plus White Sox manager Pedro Grifol and their combatants Ramírex and Anderson were thrown out of the game post haste. So were Guards third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh and relief pitcher Emmanuel Clase.

Anderson wouldn't talk to the press after the game, but Ramírez had plenty to say. "He's been disrespecting the game for a while. It's not from yesterday or from before," the Cleveland third baseman began.

I even had the chance to tell him during the game, "Don't do this stuff. That's disrespectful. Don't start tagging people like that." In reality, we're here trying to find ways to provide for our families. When he does the things he does on the bases, it can get somebody out of the game. So I was telling him to stop doing that and then as soon as the play happened, he tagged me again really hard, more than needed, and then he reacted and said, "I want to fight." And if you want to fight, I have to defend myself.

Cynics suggest Anderson should get a two-week suspension for starting the fight in the first place. They say, not implausibly, that he shouldn't exactly protest such a suspension, because his season — injuries contributed to his pre All-Star Break .223/.259/.263 deflation, though he was bouncing back after the break — is much like that of the White Sox whole. Lost? Try disappeared.

Anderson has been admirable in the past for wanting baseball to be fun again, on the field and encouraging more black youth to consider the sport as a profession. He's been capable of big moments, maybe none bigger than the game-winner he drove into the corn field behind the outfield in the first Field of Dreams game.

He wants to be remembered as an impact-delivering player. He overcame a lot to make himself a two-time All-Star. He looked like a classic baseball hero that night in Iowa. He may have thrown too much of that away Saturday night.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn used the trade deadline to start dismantling the sorry enough team he'd built. Saturday night was actually the first White Sox win since the deadline itself. They'd lost 13 of their previous 17 until Saturday night. It's not implausible to think Hahn will continue the remaking he began come the offseason.

But it's also not implausible that Anderson, a player who's meant plenty to the White Sox in the past, might be in his final days in their silks. If this proves the catalyst for that, it would negate enough of what he wants to mean to the team and to the game he loves. Far worse than his face or his ego getting dropped by a flying right in a foolish fight, that would hurt.

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