Friday, March 25, 2011


Lenny Dykstra was selected by the New York Mets in the 12th round of the free agent draft on June 8, 1981. The fiery outfielder became know affectionately as "Nails" due to his style of hard play. Lenny's first national exposure as a New York Met came when his name was connected to the famous "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch" story in Sports Illustrated magazine on April 1, 1985. Dykstra was one of the three actual Mets prospects detailed as hitting off the mystical pitcher. The April Fool's Day article serves as the magazine equivalent to the deceptive radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds".

The real exploits of the energetic outfielder became stranger than any fictional account that was ever written. Dykstra established himself as a prized prospect in the minor-leagues, and gained his first opportunity in New York when starting centerfielder, Mookie Wilson was forced to the disabled list. Lenny made his big-league debut on May 3, 1985 in Cincinnati. He appeared as the Mets lead-off hitter facing Reds star pitcher, Mario Soto. "Before my first at-bat, everyone told me how Soto threw so hard, how he was a power pitcher," Dykstra remembered. "He threw me three straight changeups and struck me out. The next time up, I stayed back and hit one out. I ended up with two hits and a stolen base." The home run, his first major-league hit, was the only one he would have in his rookie season. Lenny was sent back and forth between Triple-A Tidewater and New York as Mookie's health warranted until Wilson had shoulder surgery on July 1st. "From my standpoint, I knew I was going to Tidewater from Florida (after spring training)," Dykstra was quoted. "I knew that I'd be here in September, but I didn't picture myself being here as soon as I was. It was unfortunate for Wilson to have an injury. But I'm glad that I got the opportunity."

A strong Mets club entered spring training for the 1986 season with Mookie Wilson on the road to recovering from the problematic shoulder that had plagued him earlier. In a freak accident Mookie was struck in the face with a thrown ball during baserunning drills that severely injured his right eye. Dykstra was installed as the starting centerfielder to begin the regular season. Lenny paired with teammate Wally Backman to become the sparkplugs of the dominant Mets club that rolled to the National League Eastern Division title. "We're partners in grime."
said Dykstra, referring to the hard play that often produced dirty uniforms from the duo.

Not known for his power the 5' 10" outfielder produced one of the most memorable home runs in Shea Stadium history during Game 3 of the 1986 National League Playoffs. His two-run blast off Houston Astros closer, Dave Smith propelled the Mets to a 6-5 comeback victory, and 2-1 game lead in the series. "The last time I hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning was in Strat-O-Matic," Lenny said after the game. "It's a board game where you roll the dice. I played against my brother Kevin a couple years ago and rolled some big numbers." Dykstra would ignite another ninth-inning comeback with a lead-off triple in the legendary Game 6 of that series. He scored the first of three runs which created the tie and forced the 16-inning marathon contest won by the Mets. Nails would finish with a .304 NLCS batting average.

Dykstra added two more home runs and helped New York to defeat the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Over the seven games he recorded a .296 batting average and 3 RBIs. Lenny had established himself as a fan favorite and published his book, "Nails: The Inside Story of an Amazing Season" written with Marty Noble.

"Lenny and the Mets" returned to the postseason again in 1988. Dykstra enjoyed another terrific October series and hit for a .429 batting average during the seven games. His effort was not enough to keep the Los Angeles Dodgers from defeating the Mets and denying New York another World Series appearance.

On June 18, 1989, the Mets traded Dykstra and Roger McDowell to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Juan Samuel. Also adding Tom Edens into the deal as a player to be named later on July 27th.

Lenny retired from baseball in 1996 and began to manage his own stock portfolio and serve as president of several privately held companies. The most notable of these companies being a group of car washes in California. Success from these ventures allowed Dykstra to purchase his 6.7-acre Thousand Oaks estate from hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky for $17.5 million in 2007.

The next year, Lenny started a high-end jet charter company and established "The Players Club". This was both a magazine and investment annuity designed for former athletes. "Guys are done playing at 35," said the man now known as The Dude. "and there's nothing worse than to make a man change his lifestyle. When the money's flying in, they don't think about paying bills when they get older. 'Cause they never been 35 and outta work."

Nails kept up the appearance of his high-flying lifestyle with fancy cars and private jets, even while his personal finances were falling apart. In July of 2009 he was forced to declare bankruptcy listing $50,000 of assests to upward of $50 million in liabilities. He was divorced from his wife of 23 years and living out of his car a month later. The Dykstra home was a victim of a depreciated housing market and in disrepair rendering it unsaleable. With few choices available, Lenny auctioned off pieces of personal memorabilia in September of 2009. These included the home run ball that Dykstra hit to win Game 3 of the 1986 NLCS ($31,070) and his 1986 World Series ring ($56,762.50). He resurfaced with a new online business venture named Nails Investments. "Everybody hurts the same," said Dykstra in 2010, suggesting he was like many Americans who were caught up in the mortage crisis. "Everybody loses the same, meaning it's all relative. I just happened to play in an arena where there were bigger chips."

Lenny Dykstra signed his card in the set for my good friend Jessie at the MAB Celebrity Services "Philly Show" on March 5, 2011.

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