Feb 6, 2016

1986 World Champion Mets Outfielder: Nails- Lenny Dykstra (1985-1989)

Leonard Kyle Dykstra was born on February 10, 1963 in Santa Ana, California. The five foot eleven left hand hitting outfielder was signed by the New York Mets in the 13th round of the 1981 draft. 

 He rose quickly in the Mets system by 1983 he was the A ball, Carolina League MVP for the Lynchburg Mets, batting .358 with 105 stolen bases, 8 HRs & 81 RBIs. The next season at AA Jackson he hit .275 & after batting .310 in 58 games for the 1984 AAA Tidewater Tides he was called up to the Mets big league squad.

In the Mets minor leagues he became friend with fellow outfielder Bill Beane who later became the longtime GM of the Oakland A's. Beane later said "Lenny was perfectly designed, emotionally" to play baseball and that he had "no concept of failure." 

Dykstra debuted with the Mets at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati on May 3rd, 1985 batting leadoff & playing centerfield. After striking out in the 1st inning, he hit a two run HR off Mario Soto in his second career at bat. The Mets went on to a 9-5 win. He played part time & didn't get into the lineup steadily until July, when Mookie Wilson went down with injury. 

 Dykstra immediately made an impact with his scrappy style of hard nose play. He soon became known as Nails for his toughness as well as his nitty gritty style of play. In the outfield he dove for balls, on the base paths he slid head first into the bag.

It seemed he always had a dirty uniform & a cheek full of tobacco, which made him look like a real old time ballplayer. The fans soon fell in love and he became one of the most popular figures around Shea Stadium. Dykstra was a great leadoff hitter, able to slap the ball all over the field. He also showed power at times, hit a lot of doubles, drew walks and was a great base stealer. 

In the classic July 4th 1986 nineteen inning game in Atlanta, Dykstra hit a sac fly scoring Howard Johnson in the 18th inning, to put the Mets ahead. The Braves tied it again, but New York won it with a five run 19th inning.

In July he would score runs in 12 of 15 games during the first three weeks, adding six multi hit games in the month while stealing seven bases. He cooled off during the pennant race but he showed a lot of promise for the future.

In his rookie year the Mets won 98 games finishing second to the St. Louis Cardinals. Dykstra hit .254 with one HR nine doubles three triples 40 runs scored 19 RBIs & 15 stolen bases with a .338 on base % in 83 games played. 

In 1986 when Mookie Wilson got injured during Spring Training, Dykstra began the year as the Mets primary centerfielder. He was determined to prove how good he could play. Later when Wilson returned, the would share time in center field in Davey Johnson's platoon system. With Dykstra in the leadoff spot & the pesky Wally Backman batting second, the two became known as “Partners in Grime” & “The Wild Boys”. 
On Opening Day he drew two walks & scored two runs in the Mets 4-2 & Dwight Gooden's win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. On April 12th, he had a four hit day at Philadelphia, driving in two runs, stealing a base & scoring a run in a 9-8 Mets loss. He closed out the month batting .327 and already had stolen eight bases. In May his average dropped to .268 but he contributed by scoring twelve runs. 

 In June he raised his average forty six points to get back over the .300 mark. On June 2nd he cleared the bases with a bases loaded triple, in an 11-2 win over the San Diego Padres at Shea. On June 9th he had another four hit day, hitting a a pair of doubles to get over .300. In July he had two separate eight game hit steaks. On July 4th he helped Doc Gooden to a 2-1 win over the Astros at Shea Stadium, with a 7th inning tie breaking RBI single. 

Dykstra would score at least one run in seven straight games from July 7th through the 19th, for a total of 14 runs scored in that period. He had twelve hits, hitting HRs in Cincinnati, Houston & one at Shea. In that stretch he also drove in runs in six straight games & had 16 RBIs in the month. On the bases he also stole five more bases.

On August 6th he had another four hit day in a suspended game, against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The game was called on account of darkness & resumed the next day, as New York won 7-6. In the game scheduled for that day, he added three more hits in a 12-3 Mets win. On September 17th he had two hits, the night the Mets clinched their first Eastern Divisional title since 1973. 

 On a star studded power hitting team, Dykstra was the spark plug that got things going. Nails led the team with 31 stolen bases and seven triples (5th in the NL).

He hit .295 (9th best in the NL) with 27 doubles, five HRs, 45 RBIs & a .377 on base % (9th in the NL). He scored 77 runs, second on the club to Keith Hernandez (94) in 147 games played. In the outfield he posted a 990 fielding % (4th in the league) making eight assists with two double plays & making just three errors all season. 

 Post Season: With all his regular season heroics, Dykstra will forever be remembered for his walk off HR in Game #3 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium, against the Houston Astros. It is certainly one of the most dramatic & exciting moments in Mets history.

Dykstra had entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning and struck out against Houston's Bob Knepper. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Mets were trailing 5-4, as Wally Backman led off with a bunt single. He was called safe on controversial slide into first base. 

Dykstra now came up to face Astros closer Dave Smith. Nails drilled the 0-1 pitch down the right field line & over the fence for the game winning walk off HR.

The Shea crowd went wild in one of the most dramatic Mets post season victories ever. 

Quotes: Dykstra was as shocked as anyone. "I wasn't thinking about going up there to hit a home run to win the ballgame", he said. "I was just thinking base hit. I saw the pitch real well and hit it real well. Don't get used to this. You're not going to see too many more game-winning home runs from me." 

Back in Game #2 at the Astrodome he had two hits, including a 5th inning single off Nolan Ryan. He would later scored on Keith Hernandez's triple in the Mets 5-1 win. 

In Games four & five he went hitless. In the the final Game #6 at Houston, it was Dykstra who led off the 9th inning as a pinch hitter with the Mets down 3-0. He hit a triple & scored the first run, on Mookie Wilsons base hit in the Mets comeback to tie the game.

In the 16th inning the Mets had scored two runs making it 6-4 when Dykstra’s RBI base hit scored Wally Backman in what turned out to be the Mets winning run in the 7-6 victory as the Astros scored two in the bottom of the inning.

Overall Dykstra hit .304 (7-23) with three extra base hits, three RBIs, three runs scored & a stolen base with a .360 on base % in the 1986 NLCS. 

In the World Series victory against the Boston Red Sox, he hit .296 (8-27) with a HR, three RBIs & two walks. He drew walks in both of the first two games, but only had one hit going 1-6.

It was Dykstra's leadoff home run, in Game #3 at Fenway Park that brought the Mets to life, after being down two games to none. 

Trivia: The HR made him the third Met in team history to hit a leadoff, Game three World Series HR. The first time it was done was in 1969 by Tommie Agee & the second was in 1973, hit by Wayne Garrett. Both those games were played at Shea Stadium.
Dykstra had four hits in that Game #3, scoring two runs. The next night, in Game #4 at Boston, Dykstra hit another HR, a two run shot in the 7th inning, off Steve Crawford. That put the Mets up 5-0 on their way to a 6-2 Ron Darling win.

In the classic Game #6 he went hitless. In Game #7, he came in as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning, after Ray Knight had homered to put the Mets ahead. He singled then advanced to second on a wild pitch & scored the Mets 5th run on Rafael Santana’s base hit. As the Mets won the World Series, Dykstra rode high on top of the world, celebrating the success.

In 1987 Dykstra appeared as a pinch hitter on Opening Day, going 0-1 in the Mets 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. On April 10th he hit a HR & drove in two runs leading the Mets to a 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.

In mid May he hit HRs, in back to back games against the San Francisco Giants. On the same home stand, five games later, he hit a pair of HRs in a May 23rd game against the Dodgers. Overall in May, he had 24 hits with four HRs, six stolen bases and 11 RBIs.

He kept his average up over .300 through mid June, although he drove in just one run all month . He did score 14 runs that month, including a big day where he scored three times in a June 21st win over the Philadelphia Phillies. In July he hit safely in 13 of 18 games over the first three weeks of that month.

On July 20th he drove in four runs, while hitting a two run HR against Larry McWilliams & the Atlanta Braves, in a 9-2 win at Shea Stadium. Through the summer months of July & August '87, he gathered twenty plus hits each month. On August 16th, he had four hits including his ninth HR, in a wild 23-10 Mets win at Wrigley Field in Chicago. 

In September he hit a grand slam HR in Montreal, against the Expos in a 10-0 Doc Gooden shutout. The next week he had three straight games where he hit a two doubles in each game. From September 20th until the end of the season he had six multiple hit games, finishing the year strong. That year, the Mets finished in second place, just three games back of the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 92-70 record. 

For the year, Nails hit ten HRs and was being accused of trying to swing more for the fences, rather than base hits. His power surge included, setting a Mets club mark in doubles (at the time) with 37 (4th most in the league). Overall he hit .285, with three triples, a .352 on base %, 45 RBIs & 27 stolen bases. 

In 1988 for the NL East Champion Mets, injuries limited Dykstra to 126 games but he still led all NL centerfielders in fielding (.996%) making just one error all season. He started out the season with an Opening day three run HR against the Montreal Expos in the 10-6 win.

On April 14th he already hit his third HR, scoring the only run of a 1-0 Bob Ojeda win over the Expos. He hit safely in 15 of 18 games in May, with a four hit game on May4th against the Astros. In June he hit in 19 of 25 games raising his batting average to .308. He maintained his .300 average into early August. 

On a road trip to Wrigley Field, he had three straight mufti RBI games, with HRs in two of the games. The next month he hit another two run HR at Wrigley in a 13-6 Mets over the Cubs. He hit better in the earlier part of the season, as his bat cooled off during the final two months of the season. but he still led the team with 30 stolen bases, and would hit .270 on the season with 8 HRs 19 doubles, three triples, 33 RBIs & a .321 on base %. In centerfield he led the league in fielding (.987%) with four assists in 118 games. 

Post Season: In the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dykstra only had one hit in the first four games (1-7). In Game #5 he hit a three run HR off Tim Belcher, to bring the Mets closer from a 6-0 deficit, they would lose the game 7-4.

In Game #6, he went 2-5 scoring two runs as the Mets evened the Series at three games each. In that game, he led off the Mets first inning by reaching on an error, advancing to third on a Wally Backman single & scoring on a Kevin McReynolds sac fly.

In the final three games of the series, he had five hits, driving in three runs and scoring four runs. Overall in the NLCS loss, Nails batted .429 with three doubles, four walks, a HR, three RBIs and six runs scored.

In 1989 things were slowly changing in New York within the organization. Dykstra started out well in April batting .375 with twelve runs scored as he got toward the end of the month. His bat cooled off considerably in the next two months, on June 14th he hit his last HR as a New York Met, it came at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

On June 18th 1989 after 56 games he was batting .270, when the Mets made one of the worst trades of that era. The popular Dykstra and relief pitcher Roger McDowell were both traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during a road trip there for second baseman Juan Samuel, who the Mets wanted to play in center field. 

Former Mets GM; Joe McIlvane said, Manager Davey Johnson had been pressuring the front office to trade Dykstra for years. Teammate Keith Hernandez said in his book Pure Baseball that Dykstra was "on the wild and crazy side", which is why the Mets chose to trade him.

Many fans believe this was the start of the Mets downfall after their dominating 1980’s play. Dykstra was initially upset over the trade because he enjoyed playing in New York, but he adapted & soon won over the Philadelphia fans as well. 

In 1990 he started the All Star Game, led the league in hits with 192 and batted .325, finishing fourth in the league. He hit nine HRs with 30 doubles, drove in 60 runs and scored 106 runs (5th in the NL). Injuries including an opening day broken hand in 1991 beat him up over the next two seasons, limiting him to 63 & 85 games respectively, but he hit .297 or better both seasons. 

Drama: Dykstra sure had his share of drama during his career and after. In March of 1991, he was linked to a gambling probe in Mississippi. 

Just two months later, he broke his collarbone in a car wreck after team mate John Kruk's bachelor party. Another Phillie team mate; Darren Daulton was also a passenger in the car & he suffered an eye injury, as well as a broken facial bone.

According to the Police, Dykstra's blood alcohol content was 0.179 at the time of the crash. 

In 1993 he had a career year as the Phillies went all the way to the World Series. He came in second to Pittsburgh's Barry Bonds in the MVP voting, leading the league in hits (194) runs scored (143) walks (129) & at bats (637). He hit a career high 19 HRs, and 44 doubles (2nd in the league), while driving in 66 runs.

In the NLCS he hit .280 going 7-25 with 2 HRs & 2 RBIs. He hit even better in the World Series .348, going 8-23 with 4 HRs 8 RBIs and 7 walks. The Phillies lost that Series to the Toronto Blue Jays, Dykstra publicly has blamed relief pitcher; Mitch Williams for losing the series. It was Williams who gave up the walk off series ending HR to Joe Carter. In 2013 Dykstra & Williams met at a Memorabilia show at a Pennsylvania mall, almost getting into a brawl.

In his career Dykstra hit .321 with 10 HRs 19 RBIs 6 doubles 27 runs scored & 20 walks in 32 post season games. 

Injuries quickly brought a down fall to his career, as he only played in 84 games batting .274 the next season, and two seasons later he was done at the age of 35. In his twelve year career he hit .285 with 1298 hits 281 doubles 43 triples 81 HRs 404 RBIs, 802 runs scored a .375 on base % & 285 stolen bases in 1278 games played. His 116 stolen bases rank 7th all time on the Mets list & his 89 triples rank 16th. 
 Retirement: Since his retirement, Dykstra has had many ups & downs. At first he ran a car wash in Corona, California. Then he became a columnist for TheStreet.com, and served as president of several of his privately held companies, including car washes, Castrol, "Team Dykstra" Quick Lube Centers; Conoco Phillips, a real estate company; and "I Sold It on eBay" in Southern California. 

He became known as a wise business advisor & stock market whiz in the financial world. He then appeared regularly as a guest, on Fox News Channel's The Cost of Freedom business shows. He bought Wayne Gretzky's $17 million estate, and began campaigning against the use of chewing tobacco. "Copy my hustle but please, don't copy my tobacco use” he said on television ads. 

 Post Career Drama's: In 2007 Dykstra was named in the Mitchell Report for steroid use, stating that the Commissioner’s office, had known about his steroid use since 2000. Dykstra chose not to meet with the Mitchell investigators to defend the allegations against him. 

In 2009, after all his financial successes, he claimed bankruptcy after getting into $31 million worth of debt. Many large & small companies had begun to invest big monies with Dykstra, after he had success in the stock market. His style of living was out of control & he was in way over his head. During the country's recession, many of his investments fell off with the bad stock market trends. 

In 2010 a court appointed trustee accused him of lying under oath & asked the court to deny his bankruptcy claims. Also security officers kept him away from his foreclosed multi-million dollar properties in Lake Sherwood. It was there he was accused of vandalizing the properties and not maintaining home owners insurance. It was reported that his 1986 World Series Ring & trophy were sold off in an auction in 2009. 

In December 2010, Dykstra was accused of hiring Adult film star Monica Foster as a female escort. He then wrote her a bad $1,000 check which she later posted a copy of on her blog site. In 2011 he was sentenced to house arrest after a bankruptcy fraud indictment.

On August 25, 2011, he was charged with indecent exposure accusations. The Los Angeles City Attorney, accuses Dykstra of placing ads on Craigslist, requesting a personal assistant for housekeeping services. When the alleged victims arrived, they were informed that the job also required massage services. It was then that Dykstra supposedly would disrobe and expose himself.

In June 2011 he was arrested, charged with 25 misdemeanor and felony counts of grand theft auto, identity theft, & filing false financial statements.

In March of 2012, he was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading no contest to those charges. He was also accused of possession of cocaine, ecstasy, and the human growth hormone, Somatropin. He remained in jail because he was unable to post the $500,000 bail. 

He was released in June of 2013 & in his first interview after being released said the following:  “In a crazy way, going to prison when I did, I didn’t want to, trust me, it actually kind of made me realize what’s important,” I’m not recommending anybody go to prison to find your life, but to me, it was rock bottom. The next step from prison is death, if you think about it. There’s nothing worse you can do to a person than lock them up, take away their freedom.”

Honors: Before Game #5 in the 2000 Subway World Series, he was joined by some of his 1986 team mates, to threw out the ceremonial first pitch, at Shea Stadium. In 2002, he was elected as part of the Mets' 40th Anniversary All-Amazin' Team.

In 2006, he returned to Shea Stadium for the 20th Anniversary of the 1986 World Championship team. He received a very warm & loud ovation. He was also on hand for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008 and has served as a special Mets Spring Training instructor many times.

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