There was a bitter irony in the news that Detroit Tigers outfielder Delmon Young had been charged with a hate crime for assault while yelling anti-Semitic slurs during an altercation outside of his team’s hotel during their visit to New York this past weekend to play the Yankees. Young, who was apparently drunk at the time, spent the night in jail and in addition to facing legal jeopardy, Major League Baseball suspended him for seven days. As is his right, under baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, he may return to the Tigers after being evaluated by a doctor and entering a treatment program.
Ballplayers are no more prone to bad behavior than anyone else in society, so there’s no reason for anyone to jump to any conclusion about the prevalence of anti-Jewish sentiments in the game. But the story had to especially hurt the feelings of Jewish fans of the Tigers and not just because it embarrassed their favorite ballclub. As anyone who saw filmmaker Aviva Kempner’s award-winning documentary “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” there was once a time when the Tigers were well known as the big leagues’ “Jewish” team.