NEW YORK - In one of the most unusual news conferences in New York Yankees history, Jason Giambi broke his silence yesterday, but he didn't say much ... including the word "steroids."
Making his first public appearance since it was revealed in the San Francisco Chronicle late last year that he admitted to a federal grand jury he took steroids for three seasons, Giambi opened by apologizing to fans, teammates and the Yankees' organization.
But when pressed to explain what he was sorry for, Giambi repeatedly said he was advised not to go into detail, citing his "ongoing legal matters."
Had Giambi admitted to using steroids with the Yankees, it would have given the team more of a legitimate reason to pursue terminating the last four years and $82 million on his contract.
"I understand the fans may want more [of an explanation]," he said. "But at this time, because of legal matters, I can't get into the specifics. Hopefully, someday I can."
Flanked by his agent, Arn Tellem, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Torre, the first baseman/designated hitter said he told the truth when he went before a federal grand jury investigating BALCO in late 2003.
According to the Chronicle story, Giambi told the federal grand jury in great detail about his use of performance-enhancing steroids leading to the All-Star break in 2003.
Yesterday, he even said he understood why the Yankees wanted to terminate his contract. "I understand how Mr. [George] Steinbrenner and [team president] Randy Levine feel," he said. "That's why I want to get back to be the player I used to be by working twice as hard."
After suffering through a terrible 2004 season in which he was slowed by an intestinal parasite and a benign tumor reportedly on his pituitary gland, Giambi said he has been working out at home in Henderson, Nev. Asked if his ills were related to his steroid use, Giambi said doctors told him they were not.
While he was limited with what he could say, Giambi seemed genuine with his apologies, choking up at times. Asked why he told reporters last spring he never took steroids just months after he testified otherwise, Giambi said, "I wish I would have done a lot of things differently. I'm sorry for that."
Giambi also revealed he had a phone conversation with Steinbrenner a few weeks ago in which he told the Yankees owner, "I'm not a quitter."
Steinbrenner publicist Howard Rubenstein said he spoke with Steinbrenner yesterday and confirmed the call.
Giambi also lashed out at former teammate Jose Canseco, who named Giambi in his coming book. "I think it's kind of sad Jose's so desperate to make a dime," he said.
Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.