You meet all types covering Philadelphia sports for three decades. The good news: Most turn out to be solid guys. Bernie Parent, Charles Barkley and Dale Murphy were superstars who treated the commonest of fans with the same respect as CEOs.
Reggie White, Cole Hamels, Connor Barwin, Charlie Manuel, John Leclair — all represented their teams with grace. All helped make this a better town.
The biggest creep? That’s a short list: Lenny Dykstra.
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I bring this up only because Dykstra is back, slimy as ever. The Dude has a new autobiography, “House of Nails,” in which he regales his 1990s steroid use and brags of snorting cocaine with Robert De Niro. Dykstra also claims he hired private eyes to dig up dirt on umpires — and then blackmailed them for a more favorable strike zone.
The book will be No. 11 on next week’s New York Times bestsellers list. It excuses away the downfall that left Dykstra broke and incarcerated as unjust persecution, without explaining why anyone wanted to persecute him.
A book tour last week brought Dykstra to New York and Philadelphia, the cities where he played. Radio interviewers chortled over “Lenny being Lenny” with his salacious stories, while their producers kept one finger poised over the dump button that erases obscenities.
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A good portion of fans in both towns still adore the Dude. I get it. He was exciting — a tobacco-spitting, dirt-caked hustler. Dykstra’s 1993 season was among the best in Phillies history, and he deserved that MVP over Barry Bonds.
But there always was that other side.
My personal experience with Lenny was trivial compared to the issues that put him in jail. We had no run in and I wasn’t the victim. But I think it’s a telling story.
In August 1993, The Philadelphia Inquirer sent me to Atlanta to help cover the Phils pennant drive. I was waiting outside the hotel when Dykstra suggested we share a taxi to the stadium. He even offered to pay.
An older cabbie stopped and was thrilled to see Dykstra climb in. The driver, a huge fan, explained that he kept a bat in his taxi, and asked any star player to add his signature. He planned to give it to his young grandson as a family heirloom. He handed the Louisville Slugger over the seat. We saw the names: Tony Gwynn, Andre Dawson, David Cone.
Dykstra took the bat and a Sharpie from the driver. He agreeably signed, and then flashed me a conspiratorial grin. As he handed it back over the seat, he showed me: Rather than his name, Lenny had written, “Suck a D—” The driver, not noticing, put his cherished bat back in a protective case, anticipating how much his grandson would appreciate it.
“We got him good, didn’t we, dude?” Dykstra chortled to me as we left the cab. Like an idiot, I said nothing. All these years later, I still feel lousy about the incident.
But five minutes later, Dykstra had moved on to his next prank.