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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

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Only If You Like Lenny

On the afternoon of October 11, 1986, I was watching the third game of the National League Championship Series. It was the bottom of the ninth inning and the Houston Astros were leading the New York Mets 5-4 and about to go up two games to one with Mike Scott scheduled to pitch the next night. Unless something great happened right away, the Mets were on the verge of big trouble.

Wally Backman bunted his way on, cleverly evading a tag. He moved to second on a passed ball. One out later, Lenny Dykstra stepped in against Dave Smith. Man, oh man, I thought, if Lenny can get hold of one here, I’d give him anything.

Every other Mets fan presumably thought the same thing. Lenny Dykstra homered into the right field bullpen. The Mets won 6-5. As his just reward, Lenny has everything.

You know how the rest of 1986 worked out. Do you have any idea how the rest of Lenny Dykstra worked out? I don’t mean in terms of the gym and whatever he did or didn’t inject to make those workouts manifest themselves. I mean where Lenny Dykstra’s life would go more than two decades later.

Let’s just say our wishes came true. Not only did we win that game, that series and the championship of the world on the unlikely bat of Lenny Dykstra, but Lenny Dykstra is winning the game of life.

If you have HBO, check out the current Real Sports the next time of many that it airs. I did after receiving a tip from AlbertsonMets and it was well worth it…though not worth as much as Lenny Dykstra.

Turns out Lenny is the live-action embodiment of Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire in his “I own a mansion and a yacht” phase. Except Leonard K. Dykstra owns much more than that. He’s got a $400,000 German automobile, a Maybach, best car in the world, according to Lenny. He’s got a $17.5 million house, formerly Wayne Gretzky’s, best house in the world, also according to Lenny. He flies in a private jet and sits where “the big man sits,” a reliable source (Lenny) says.

Lenny Dykstra is swimming in dough. And it seems to make him happy.

Dykstra was a well-compensated athlete with a salary topping out around $6.2 million in the mid-’90s and total pre-tax earnings for his career topping $36 million. But that’s chump change for Lenny now. Lenny has become a mogul, somewhere short of Warren Buffett, perhaps, but well beyond the mere Johan Santanas of baseball.

How? By using his mind. His mind. Admit it. You didn’t think he had much of one underneath all that dirt. But he does. He became a financial titan, a business genius, a captain of industry, an admiral of arbitrage. He became good at it. Seriously good.

I’d heard something about Lenny Dykstra putting out a stock newsletter. I figured it was some gimmick, something where a retired athlete lends his name and somebody makes a profit off it and the retired athlete is cut a check until the checks disappear, like Mickey Mantle selling fried chicken. That’s not this, if you go by the Real Sports story. Lenny Dykstra is the wizard of Wall Street — himself, with nobody’s help, not even that of his first-grade teacher.

Lenny Dykstra, it shouldn’t surprise you, doesn’t care to read. Never did. A strain on his batting eye. “I can read, don’t get me wrong,” he reassures Real Sports‘ Bernard Goldberg, but he chooses not to. But he does watch and he does listen and he no longer has to say, as he did to his broker when he saw his investment nest egg cut to 20% of what he started with, “What the fuck happened to my money?”

You’ll be comforted to know that Lenny is still Lenny. He’s still a factory-irregular block of granite. He wears a fancy if rumpled suit, he has an oversized Blue Tooth hanging off his left ear, he’s a poster boy for entrepreneurial capitalism, but he still looks and sounds like the platoon centerfielder who hit the weight room (just for weights of course) in hopes of impressing Davey Johnson into giving him a full-time job. He’s just older and, if you believe wisdom is attached to the accumulation of riches, wiser. Or as Lenny put it when Goldberg asked him if he should really follow his investment advice:

“Only if you like money.”

By all indications, it’s not an act. Jim Cramer, the CNBC guy whose showmanship is an act, says Lenny is “one of the great ones” when it comes to picking stocks. I don’t know the first thing about any of this, so I’ll have to assume Cramer, Goldberg and Dykstra weren’t all in on an early April Fool’s joke. This really seems to be who Lenny Dykstra is, the man with the Midas touch for investing; the founder of the car wash chain (the one with his name that he recently sold for — what else? — big bucks) that in one breath he calls the Taj Mahal of car washes while freely admitting “I don’t even know what the Taj Mahal is”; and the publisher of a new mega-upscale magazine for athletes who want to invest like Lenny Dykstra and not wind up, as he warns against, with your…let’s say Adirondack in your hand.

There may be something intrinsically amusing about Lenny Dykstra, but he’s no barrel of laughs when it comes to his glue. He tells Goldberg he never liked coming to the plate and watching the umpire and the catcher pal around. “What the hell’s so funny?” he says he’d ask. “What are you guys laughing about? I’m playing for real money.” He still is and doesn’t much care that anybody who grew up with him while he was avoiding reading wouldn’t have thought he had it in him:

“Fuck them. We’ll see who’s laughing when you want a loan, motherfucker.”

Dykstra was named in the Mitchell Report, the longest-ago Met to be tabbed, with his alleged indiscretions dating back to 1989. Lenny denied any steroid use on camera in the HBO profile, though Goldberg claims Nails later told him he had to “lie” about that, but then on the phone said he was only kidding about lying. Our Lenny also has on his permanent record an ugly drunk-driving accident and a history of unsuccessful gambling. At the moment, however, Lenny Dykstra is riding high and rolling sevens. It wouldn’t surprise me if Real Sports does another story in a couple of years about how it all went wrong for Lenny Dykstra after he was on top of the world — or that by 2010 he’s purchased a solar system whose value has increased fivefold in the last 18 months. Either way, watching the baseball footage made me remember what a force from another planet Lenny Dykstra was as a Met and pissed me off all anew that he was traded to the Phillies for Juan Samuel.

We as fans often say, as our ultimate tribute to any player, I’d like to buy that man a drink. Don’t bother with Lenny Dykstra. That motherfucker owns the entire bar.

7 comments to Only If You Like Lenny

  • Anonymous

    Potty-mouth…

  • Anonymous

    I had met Nails when I worked at the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Manhattan. It was the day that he picked up his Maybach. He didn't have much to say to me. It was a head nod and a 'what's up kid?'
    At that point I didnt want to get into his late season heroics and forthcomings. I just wrote it off as another guy buying a car who didnt want to sign an autograph.

  • Anonymous

    Not to be a total shill for my parent company, but there's a little bit of pride in that I can, in some sense, call Nails a co-worker:
    http://www.thestreet.com/author/1100645/LennyDykstra/articles.html
    Those you can read for free.
    [regular reader who wants to remain anonymous]

  • Anonymous

    My best Dykstra moment:
    In 1986, a mezzanine section 10 Saturday-only package translated into the right to purchase playoff seats WAAAAAY down the right-field line in the upper deck. From my perspective, Nails' shot was fifty feet directly over my head for half a second, until it settled snugly into the bullpen.
    My biggest Dykstra disappointment:
    I met him a few years later, and he was kind of a dick to several of us. I've heard similar stories from others, so I didn't think mine was an isolated, “got up on the wrong side of the bed today” incident.
    To me, Lenny seemed most likely to be an auto mechanic if he couldn't hit a baseball. I'm surprised, and pleased for him, that he's pulling in Mad Money with more than his biceps.

  • Anonymous

    True story: When I first moved to New York, Jim Cramer was my landlord. As you might imagine, being his tenant was simultanously very entertaining and a bit scary. He's pretty much like you see on TV.

  • Anonymous

    that game… earlier in the game Bill Doran was batting and a friend of my older brother's said “I bet he hits a homer” and he did. I still hate that guy to this day for that.

  • Anonymous

    My Dykstra encounter was at Phillies camp in Clearwater in '92 or '93. He snuck out early and I was the only one to spot him so I asked him to sign an '88 Topps. He said, “make it quick.” I thought, isn't that really up to you Nails?
    Also saw him and Dave Hollins eating in the Deli/Cafe of a Publix supermarket during the strike.