The book: “Nailed! The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra”
The author: Christopher Frankie
The pitch: Full disclosure: Lenny Dykstra once asked me to work for him. I couldn’t believe how silly the offer was.
“I’ll pay you a dollar a word to write for my magazine,” he said about five years ago, after I’d finished having a discussion concerning the MLB draft status of his son, Cutter, about to graduate from Westlake High.
“Lenny, that’s ridiculous, no one gets paid like that,” I told him.
Dykstra gave me the name and number of the editor of “The Players Club,” a very high-end magazine he published that targeted athletes with money to burn.
Kinda like him.
I did call and talked to someone. I don’t remember who. But I had no illusions of having it go farther than that. My curiosity was more of the inner-workings of such a publication that already had a reputation for how it was operating.
By that point, Dykstra’s personal reputation had already preceded him.
The novelty of his business dealings caught Sports Illustrated’s fancy in 2004. Here was an Orange County native known for getting dirty during his career in New York and Philadelphia from 1985 to ’96, now all cleaned up and printing his own money.
A year later, Dykstra was another SI feature piece in a story about how he was writing financial pieces for TheStreet.com. SI also did a glowing report on his financial wheeling and dealing in March, 2008 — right about the time CNBC blowhard Jim Cramer had referred to him in an HBO story as “brilliant” and “one of the great ones” in the business world for how he made his money (see video above). Dykstra already had three top-notch car wash facilities, including one in Simi Valley. He bought Wayne Gretzky’s 13,000-square-foot mansion at Sherwood Country Club for $18 million.
HBO had to revisit Dykstra a year later, when things got really ugly following the stock market crash. Some $30 million in debt and dozens of lawsuits filed against him led Dykastra to … well … a lot of crazy crap.
Enough has been written on how far Dykstra has sunk in the last few years — David Epstein’s piece in Sports Illustrated in March, 2012, and a New York Newsday piece on him from Dec., 2012. Prison sentences, corruptness after a guard attack … the was even a rumor that he was actually going to be released to get therapy.
But now it’s Frankie, hired in 2007 to edit Dykstra’s new financial newsletter, who deserves to have the last word. He’s not just documenting what his former boss did to him and others, but provide the ultimate literary portrait of what Dykstra should be remembered for when others want to romanticize about the way he was 20 years earlier.
This is no Mona Lisa. No smiling allowed. To repeat the litany of Dykstra transgressions here would take a few blog holes, and we’re not even up to stomaching any of that, really. As PhillyMag.com wrote in a headline about a review of the book: “Lenny Dykstra is Grosser, More Racist, More Self Destructive Than You Ever Thought.”
But in a book that, frankly, had a lot to be desired in how the way the pages are laid out and the typeface is presented in such small print, Frankie lays it all out there — disgust and all.
“There were plenty of red flags that would have sent many running for the hills, but there were equal reasons for me to believe success was right around the corner,” Frankie writes on page 160, explaining how Dykstra recruited him to the Players Club. “Plus, I had grown accustomed to the chaos.”
Dykstra eventually got longtime Philadelphia columnist Bill Conlin to write for the magazine. You maybe know now what happened to Conlin. Dykstra then gave the editor’s job to Frankie.
“Dykstra had come through in the clutch again,” Frankie wrote, “rejuvenating me and restoring my faith in him. I had previously considered quitting as soon as I got what I was owed, but once I was promoted, my outlook changed. I was thankful for the opportunity, and I felt bad for doubting him.”
Frankie waits until the epilogue to spell out what the reader should have recognized by the time they get through all the gory details: Dykstra was trying to put out a magazine to help ex-athletes get on with their lives in a productive manner. It’s something he eventually couldn’t do himself.
By that time, Cramer and Conlin had bailed out on him.
“He’s a complicated man who somehow lost his soul,” former teammate Ron Darling once said of Dykstra, who turned 50 in February. “Let’s hope when Lenny pays his debts to society that we judge him hopefully on his future good acts not his lost years.”
Great stuff for headline writers. A bunch of depressing and hideousness for those who want to find out what a real sociopath looks and smells like.
Honestly, after reading this thing, I had to get a set of kitchen tongs to pick up the book and set it aside in another room. I couldn’t get rid of the stench.