DETROIT -- Delmon Young said that the worst thing about the episode he had last week in New York City was that people thought he was "racist or bigoted."
He was right about that. That was the worst of it. And that was bad enough.
Young, an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers, has been charged with aggravated harassment in connection with an early-morning incident outside the team hotel in midtown Manhattan. Police reports allege that Young shouted an anti-Semitic slur at a group of four men, then subsequently tackled one of them. Arresting officers, acting in the belief that Young was inebriated, initially sent him to a hospital for treatment.
The case against Young is pending. Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, after Major League Baseball's own evaluation of the case, suspended Young for seven days without pay.
Friday, in the home dugout at Comerica Park, Delmon Young made his first in-person apology for the incident. He had been reinstated after his suspension. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Young would be held out of the starting lineup Friday night, while he re-acclimated himself. Leyland said Young would probably be the designated hitter both Saturday and Sunday against the Chicago White Sox.
Young seemed genuinely penitent. He apologized, early and often, in numerous directions, including to "anyone that's been offended by my actions." He had issued a statement of apology shortly after the incident in New York, but this apology, in front of a media throng at the ballpark, was a necessary step for Young in his public rehabilitation.
He blamed the episode on a problem with alcohol and said that he is now in an alcohol abuse treatment program, administered through Major League Baseball.
"I am not anti-Semitic," Young said, at least twice. This was, he said, an episode fueled by alcohol.
"That incident was an alcohol-related incident," Young said. "I know for a fact that I wouldn't be sitting here talking in front of you guys if I didn't have too much to drink, or if I just didn't go out and drink at all. I know that for a fact."
There were character witnesses available for Young on Friday, most notably Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president, CEO and general manager.
"I've been around Delmon enough to know that he's a quality individual," Dombrowski said. "I think he made a mistake. I think he's committed to ... do what is necessary to help himself.
"From all of my experience and all my exposure to Delmon Young I have never felt that he was he was anti-Semitic. I never had that feeling. What it really comes down to is if we felt that he was, or any of our players, it would not be tolerated. That would not be acceptable. And if we felt that he was, the situation would be handled completely differently. That would not be tolerable whatsoever. But I do not believe that he is [anti-Semitic]."
That was the message that Delmon Young also wanted to convey. He said that he could not discuss details of the case. Thus, the remarks attributed to him in the New York incident were out of bounds for public discussion. But Young repeatedly made the case that he was not a bigot, specifically that he was not anti-Semitic.
"I made a lapse in judgment, but I can tell you that I am not anti-Semitic," Young said.
"I am not anti-Semitic," Young said. "I wasn't raised that way. I came from a good family. We weren't taught any of that, especially growing up in a diverse area."
And Young said the most difficult aspect of this experience for him was being portrayed as a bigot.
"Yeah, that's the toughest part, especially just being branded anything racist or bigoted, especially when that's not me," he said. I have a lot of diverse friends. I live in a diverse area. It's not me."
The one sure thing about public reaction to the episode, and now the apology, is that it will be mixed. Some people will take Young at his word, as a man with an alcohol problem who is now attempting to deal with that problem. Other people will take a more skeptical view, believing that Young is engaging in what is has become known as "the Mel Gibson defense." This occurs when someone accused of making anti-Semitic comments essentially says that they are only anti-Semitic when they are drunk.
Delmon Young's subsequent actions could speak more loudly than words. He had a grasp of that concept Friday, and that was the most hopeful part about the whole episode.
Asked if he thought fans would be forgiving, Delmon Young responded: "I would hope so, but I've got to go out there as an individual and show the community that what has transpired and what has been said about me is not me. So it's going to be up to me to be able to give them an opportunity to be able to have forgiveness."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.