Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Posted Apr 8, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Apr 8, 2013 at 09:32 PM
National Boss’ Day is on Oct. 16, 191 days from now. It’s a safe bet that former major-leaguer and self-proclaimed Wall Street whiz Lenny Dykstra will not be receiving any goodwill messages that day.
In fact, Dykstra still will be languishing in jail after being sentenced to three years in prison last December on charges that included financial fraud and grand theft auto.
As a baseball player, Dykstra earned the nickname “Nails” for his tough, aggressive, reckless style of play. As a businessman, Dykstra talked a great game and even had some success, making big bucks with his Southern California car wash chain. Thanks to Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” program, Dykstra even enjoyed some fame as a stock market savant with an impressive record in picking options. Dykstra lived large, buying an $18 million mansion and owning a private jet.
Personable and persuasive, Dykstra also could be mercurial, outrageous, incoherent and downright crude. Christopher Frankie bought into the positive qualities he saw about Dykstra, believing Lenny was the same type of guy he worshipped as a 9-year-old when the New York Mets won the World Series. The kind of player who “would have run through hell in a gasoline suit.”
Frankie was sadly mistaken, eventually dreading the countless telephone calls from his boss during his tenure at The Players Club, a high-end finance and lifestyle magazine.
So, what do you write about a boss who still owes you more than $119,000 and made you work crazy hours? A boss who could turn on the charm and be disarming with conversations sprinkled with “dude” and “bro,” yet become irrational at the drop of a hat? A boss who stuck you with dinner tabs, kept you waiting for hours until he was ready to work, and who demanded total loyalty?
“When you work for Lenny Dykstra, you leave your job title at the door,” Frankie writes in “Nailed! The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra” (Running Press; hardback, $25, 286 pages).
Does Frankie have an ax to grind? Perhaps. It’s up to the reader to decide. But Frankie certainly offers a minutely detailed look at Team Dykstra, interviewing more than 75 of Dykstra’s teammates, coaches, employees, victims, friends and family members to provide more than one employee’s perspective. He also reviewed court documents, emails and texts.
Frankie even got a lukewarm blessing from Dykstra. “Hey, everybody’s gotta eat,” he told Frankie in a telephone call about the book. “We all gotta make a living, and you know my business better than anybody.”
Does he ever. Frankie spins a disturbing, bizarre tale that truly hammers Nails.
Frankie writes that Dykstra stole thousands of dollars from employees, relatives and family members, persuading them to loan him their credit cards. He convinced others to take out loans to give him cash — and never repaid them. He even schemed to tap into the signing bonus the Milwaukee Brewers gave his son, Cutter. Employees were not paid, with payroll instead being used to remodel Dykstra’s kitchen. Office rents were delinquent. And Dykstra was prone to break commitments at the drop of a hat.
Dykstra also had a seamy side, Frankie writes, seeking sexual favors from employees, maids and temporary help.
Frankie is fair and even-handed in his depiction of Dykstra — The Players Club, for example, was a visionary idea. Dykstra wanted a company that could provide former athletes with financial and personal services. But his strange behavior derailed a potentially profitable venture.
“I had learned a lot from Dykstra — such as how to push myself harder than I ever had before and not to accept the status quo,” Frankie writes. “Much of what had made Dykstra a successful ballplayer translated to the business world.
“It was just that his lack of discipline and ethics overshadowed his positive attributes.”
Ethics? Los Angeles police detective Juan Contreras, who arrested Dykstra in 2012 for his role in a car scam, is not so sure.
“I’ve met a lot of gang members that have more ethics than this guy,” he tells Frankie.
Contreras uncovered at least 18 victims of Dykstra’s scams, and most were not wealthy — housekeepers, drivers, pilots and personal assistants.
Ultimately, Frankie, whose journalistic experience included stints at Newsday and The Financial Times, decided he had to leave Dykstra’s domain before he was ruined, too. He left knowing that many honest people were cheated out of their money.
“The realization that I was inadvertently helping Dykstra scam others made the greatest impact on me and weighed most heavily on my mind,” Frankie writes. “I was sickened that I had chosen to be loyal to a man who treated everyone as expendable.”
“He didn’t pay attention to man’s law or God’s law,” former teammate Tommy Herr once told reporters about Dykstra.
The courts took care of man’s law. Frankie has written a book that is hard to put down, a literary version of rubbernecking at a car accident site. It’s more prudent to move on, but the temptation to look is irresistible.