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Saturday Morning Phodder: The Life and Times of Lenny Dykstra

In 1981, the New York Mets drafted a young man from Garden Grove, Ca. in the 13th round of baseballs amateur draft. When one is selected that late, they often toil in the minor leagues for their career. Yet, sometimes a player can surprise the experts and scouts and have a cup of coffee in the show. For Leonard Kyle Dykstra, that cup of coffee became a helluva career. Perhaps it was the toughness and grit that he brought to the ball-yard everyday that allowed him to excel. He certainly had natural ability, but determination was ultimately the key to Dykstra’s success. It was this toughness and determination that earned him the moniker,”Nails.” 

For those of us that were privileged enough to see him don Phillies pinstripes, “Nails” put on quite a show. Who can forget the clutch moments he provided in the 1993 NLCS and World Series? Dykstra was revered by Mets fans after batting .300 in the 1986 postseason. Lenny was the catalyst that helped New York win their first World Series since 1969. In 1993, Dykstra batted near .350 in the fall classic, bringing the Phillies to the brink of tying the series against Toronto with a clutch, late-inning bomb. He finished with six homers in the ’93 playoffs.

Dykstra’s hard-nosed, balls to the wall mentality may have also been his kryptonite. In his eight seasons with the Phillies, he played full seasons only twice, including 1993. Injuries plagued the “Dude” throughout his tenure in Philly. Some injuries were the result of playing hard, some, like the drunk-driving accident that cost him two months of baseball in 1991, were the result of living hard. However, for better or for worse, that was Lenny K. Dykstra. Is it a surprise that he carried his tough as nails mindset into the professional world, upon retiring?

Dykstra struck gold in 1993, but not in the baseball world. This was the year that Lenny opened up his first car-wash. The success of this venture led him to an empire in the realm of car-washes. It just so happened that the dirt-mongrel Dykstra also liked to get things squeaky clean. Through his car-washes, Dykstra began to build a financial empire that extended far beyond cleaning cars. Using his hard-nosed mentality, Dykstra started to invest in stocks, real-estate, cars, and new personal business ventures. His success(a self-proclaimed 98%) in trading stocks, earned him a friendship and great acclaim from stock “guru”, Jim Cramer, of CNBC’s Mad Money.

The beginning of Dykstra’s end came when his magazine, “The Players Club” started to flounder. Many articles have been written, chronicling the many guffaws committed by Dykstra. Eventually all of his missteps in the financial world came to a head when Dykstra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. During this time Dykstra faced a litany of law-suits, a divorce, and a foreclosure on a home purchased from hockey great, Wayne Gretzky. Despite the bankruptcy filing, Dykstra readily admits that his net worth exceeds 100 million dollars.

In the latest round of Dykstra news, it was learned that Lenny was being sued, again, by a former employee who claims she was sexually harassed by Dykstra. With-in a week of this story’s release, Dykstra announced that he would be filing suit against JP Morgan, whom issued Dykstra his 18 million dollar mortgage on Gretzky’s house, for 100 million dollars for predatory lending.

The man who once had the Midas touch has fallen hard from grace, but grace was one thing the Dude never had. Multiple encounters with Dykstra portray him as rude, brash, sexist, racist, and a whole slew of other -ists. Dykstra was quoted as saying “Nobody can call me a racist, I put three”darkies” and a bitch, on my first four covers.”(referring to his Players Club publication.) For the record, those covers included Derek Jeter, Chris Paul, Tiger Woods, and Danica Patrick. He went on to describe the three gentlemen as “spearchuckers.”

It was this rhetoric that likely got Dykstra’s publication banned from locker rooms across professional sports, thus leading to the downfall of The Players Club. Perhaps it was his abrasive personality that led to his divorce and alienation from his mother and brother. One thing is certain, Dykstra finds himself in a very lonely place in this world.

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