Lenny Dykstra had a dream season in 1993.
He led the National League in hits, walks and runs, nearly doubled his previous high in home runs, finished second to Barry Bonds for most valuable player and led the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series. After the season, the center fielder signed a multiyear contract worth almost $25 million, making him baseball’s highest-paid leadoff batter ever.
Now, in court documents and interviews, former associates allege that during that magical season, “Nails” -- as he was known because of his intense style of play -- indulged in two of baseball’s biggest sins: steroid use and illegal gambling.
A longtime friend and business partner is suing Dykstra in Ventura County, seeking to regain an interest in their lucrative Southern California car wash business. In the suit, Lindsay Jones, 42, of Irvine, alleges that Dykstra advised him to bet thousands of dollars with a bookmaker on selected Phillie games in 1993.
Jones said in a sworn statement that his baseball wagers were a form of payment to him, made “on the basis that Lenny would cover all losses, and I would use the winnings to live on.”
Dykstra’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said the three-time All-Star “absolutely denies” the allegation, calling it “unsubstantiated” and “a fabricated story from a disgruntled partner.”
The suit includes a sworn declaration from a Florida bodybuilder -- a convicted drug dealer -- who said Dykstra paid him $20,000 plus “special perks” during their eight-year association to “bulk up” the once-slight ballplayer. In an interview, Jeff Scott said he injected Dykstra with steroids “more times than I can count,” and that Dykstra stepped up his steroid use in spring training of 1993 because “it was a contract year.”
Petrocelli, citing Scott’s criminal past, said the steroid allegation was not “reliable or credible,” and called the former bodybuilder “biased and aligned with Jones.” In the past, Dykstra has denied using steroids.
Petrocelli said the allegations by Jones and Scott are an effort to sensationalize the lawsuit and pressure Dykstra into a settlement. “It’s not appropriate that they are using this lawsuit to advance these arguments in an effort to collect money,” the attorney said.
Rich Levin, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said Dykstra could be subject to a permanent ban from the game if an investigation found that he had advised baseball bets while playing. Baseball is not investigating Dykstra, Levin added, explaining that he has no current connection to the game.
Dykstra, 42, retired in 1998 after a 12-year career with the Phillies and New York Mets.
He did not respond to phone messages seeking comment on the allegations. “I’m telling him not to talk,” Petrocelli said.
In his lawsuit, Jones cites Dykstra’s alleged steroid use and gambling involvement as evidence of financial irresponsibility that endangeres the car wash business, which paid Jones $167,000 in 2003. Dykstra fired Jones in September 2003, but Jones contends he still has a financial interest in the business.
Jones’ attorney, Michael McCaffrey, says in court papers that Dykstra, who lives in a multimillion-dollar home in the gated Lake Sherwood area of Thousand Oaks, had engaged in “a pattern of ever-increasing misconduct and mismanagement which threatens to substantially impair, if not destroy [Jones’] interest in the partnerships.”
In response, Dykstra’s lawyers say in court documents that Jones quit the three car washes after he was confronted about raiding cash registers, demanding kickbacks from contractors and using business funds to pay off his gambling debts.
An arbitrator is expected to announce a binding decision in the lawsuit this week.
Scott’s account of Dykstra’s steroid use comes amid a sweeping controversy over performance-enhancing drugs in baseball that has tainted some of the game’s biggest names and raised doubts about the legitimacy of hallowed slugging records.
Jose Canseco, in a recent tell-all book, acknowledged taking steroids and accused Mark McGwire of doing so when they played with the Oakland Athletics in the late 1980s. McGwire had previously denied using steroids but refused to address the allegation while under oath during a congressional hearing last month.
McGwire, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, hit a record 70 home runs in 1998, only to see his record broken by Bonds in 2001. Authorities reportedly have gathered evidence showing that the San Francisco Giant star used designer steroids furnished by BALCO, a Bay Area lab that is the focus of a federal investigation. Bonds has denied knowingly using banned substances.
The BALCO scandal helped prompt the Major League Baseball Players Assn. to agree to a new steroid testing policy that has resulted in 10-game suspensions for three players this season.
The Times contacted Scott, 37, of Palm Harbor, Fla., after discovering his sworn statement in the public court file. He agreed to discuss his relationship with Dykstra.
Scott said he met Dykstra in February 1991, approaching the ballplayer at Joe Doogan’s, a bar near the Phillies’ Clearwater spring training ballpark.
“Lenny Dykstra -- I loved you as an ’86 Met,” Scott said he told the player, referring to the World Series-winning team.
Within “a few sentences,” Scott said, Dykstra turned the conversation to steroids with a joke about Scott’s bulky frame, and, “within a couple of weeks, we did our first [steroid] transaction.”
Scott said he had grown up in New Jersey, rooting for the Phillies. He said he was single and lived freely in the partying Florida beach town, thanks to family wealth derived from a grandfather who sold a lucrative Standard Oil franchise, and a grandmother who invested wisely in the stock market.
“Jeff was good friends with Dykstra and he hung out with about half the team,” said Bobby Habeeb, a longtime bodybuilding friend of Scott’s.
Scott said he served as a “middleman” in Dykstra’s steroid purchases, obtaining the drugs from friends at Clearwater workout spots.
Scott said he injected Dykstra either at Scott’s residence or Dykstra’s various spring training homes: a penthouse at a resort known as Altamar, the Safety Harbor House and the Bayou Club in nearby Largo.
The injury-plagued Dykstra had appeared in only 63 games in 1991, and 85 in 1992. Dykstra’s reliance on steroids escalated in 1993, as he devoted himself to training harder in the gym and monitoring his diet, Scott said.
“Going into ‘93, I heard from [Dykstra] all the time that it was his contract year, and how he wanted a lot of weight and a lot of strength quickly,” Scott said. “I think he gained 15 pounds in three weeks -- it was very quick and very noticeable.”
Scott said he provided nutritional guidance and “spotted and packed the weights” during Dykstra’s gym visits. Scott said Dykstra took five types of steroids in 1993, two in tablet form and three as liquid injected into his buttocks.
The tablets were Anadrol and Dianabol; the injectibles were Sustanon 250, Parabolin and Deca-Durabolin, Scott said. After 1993, he added, Dykstra began taking testosterone and human growth hormone injections.
Dr. Charles Yesalis, a Penn State professor of health policy, said these steroids build strength and muscle mass, and allow athletes to train harder and recover faster from workouts.
“Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone; they all masculinize and build muscle,” Yesalis said. “Taking different ones, called stacking, is like picking a red rose, a white rose and a yellow rose. They’re all roses. There’s no study showing that stacking does better than taking the same dose of one, but it’s gym lore that stacking allows you to hit all of the different receptors.”
Scott said Dykstra paid him $100 for each injection, telling him, “You give shots better than my nurse.”
Baseball did not ban steroids until 2002, though the substances became illegal in 1991 unless prescribed by a physician.
Dykstra had his finest season in 1993. After never hitting more than 10 home runs in any of his eight previous seasons, Dykstra hit 19, plus six in the postseason. The team won 17 of its first 22 games and 45 of its first 62, sprinting to the National League East title, with Dykstra playing a career-high 161 games.
The Phillies lost the World Series to Toronto, four games to two.
To baseball observers, Dykstra appeared far more muscular than he had as a 160-pound leadoff man for the 1986 Mets, who won the World Series.
ESPN reporter Jayson Stark told the Chicago Tribune last month about a 1993 clubhouse meeting with a shirtless Dykstra.
“I said, ‘Look at you. What did you do?’ ” Stark recalled. “[Dykstra] said, ‘I took some real good vitamins.’ ”
Scott said his day-to-day training relationship with Dykstra ended each year at the close of spring training. Scott said the outfielder left “stocked up with enough [steroids] to last him the year,” and they would maintain casual contact through the season.
After the season, Dykstra signed a four-year, $24.9-million contract with the Phillies, but his production dropped off sharply. He played in 84 games in 1994, 62 in 1995 and 40 in 1996, then sat out the 1997 and 1998 seasons because of a back injury before retiring.
Scott said Dykstra used human growth hormone and steroids, while trying to rehabilitate his back. He said he injected human growth hormone into the fatty tissue on Dykstra’s midsection.
Erin Scott, the trainer’s ex-wife, a Florida schoolteacher, said she witnessed several of Dykstra’s visits to her home for injections in 1997 and 1998.
“[Dykstra] came over a lot after his spring training games, sometimes just to get the shot,” Erin Scott said. “ ... It was pretty obvious. Sometimes, they’d even leave the bathroom door open. I remember Lenny walking out of there holding his butt ... he said, ‘Ooh, that hurt.’ ”
Jeff Scott pleaded guilty in 1989 to cocaine trafficking and related charges in Pinellas County, Fla., spending 13 months in prison.
Last year, Scott shot himself in the arm with a handgun, an incident he described as accidental. A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Dept. arrest report said deputies searching Scott’s home found steroids and marijuana.
On April 14, Scott was sentenced to one year of house arrest and one year of probation after pleading guilty to two counts of illegal gun possession by a felon.
“I’m no saint,” Scott said. “But the truth is the truth, and I don’t think you’ll find anyone who has ever accused me of being a liar.”
In detailing the “large chunks” of cash he received from Dykstra as compensation for his training services, Scott said in his sworn statement the outfielder once handed him $5,000 at a Tampa nightspot, telling Scott to “find some chicks.”
Scott said Dykstra also paid for nights out to “fancy restaurants and nightclubs,” a two-night stay at Disney World and a Caribbean honeymoon cruise.
Jones referred to illicit drugs in his sworn statement, saying Dykstra “paid a substantial sum to obtain steroids and human growth hormone.”
Reflecting on his career in a 2002 interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, Dykstra denied using steroids when pressed about past suspicions.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Dykstra said. “I guess there have been some people who wondered. But I worked hard. I put my time in. Some people get rewarded for hard work.”
Although baseball did not outlaw steroids until three years ago, it began admonishing players about the dangers of gambling in the wake of the Black Sox scandal of 1919, posting clubhouse warning signs in an effort to preserve the game’s integrity.
All-time hit leader Pete Rose was kicked out of the game for life in 1989 for betting on baseball, including games involving the team he was managing, the Cincinnati Reds.
Dykstra had a brush with baseball authorities in 1991 over his ties to a poker room operator in Mississippi, drawing a one-year probation. Levin, the baseball spokesman, said this required Dykstra to maintain regular contact with the commissioner’s office and subjected him to “further action” and possible suspension if he continued associating with illegal gamblers.
“He promised he would stop associating with the gamblers and told me, ‘You can check on me every week,’ ” former commissioner Fay Vincent recalled. “We did. He was clean.”
At the time, Dykstra said in a prepared statement: “I’m sorry it happened. I learned my lesson.”
By 1993, Jones alleged, Dykstra was advising him on baseball bets.
“Lenny would instruct me to bet on baseball games in 1993 at an average bet of $2,000 per game,” Jones said in a sworn statement. “Together, we won 11 straight Phillies’ games in a row before being cut off by the bookmaker who was convinced that I had inside information.”
Jones does not allege that Dykstra, his friend since their days growing up in Garden Grove, ever recommended betting against the Phillies. He declined to elaborate on his sworn statements, citing a gag order from the lawsuit arbitrator.
The case file includes sworn statements by others who describe Dykstra’s gambling behavior as intense.
Regina Morrill, who identifies herself as a former girlfriend of Dykstra’s, said he “gambled heavily,” and took her on 25 gambling trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City by private jet.
Todd Wilson, identifying himself as a former personal assistant to Dykstra, said he saw Dykstra place a losing $50,000 bet on the 1994 Super Bowl with a bookmaker.
That bookmaker, who also allegedly handled Jones’ bets, was detained in a December 1995 gambling raid, Anaheim police said, but was not charged with a crime.
The bookmaker, who said he quit the business years ago, was interviewed on the condition that he remain anonymous, saying his current job could be jeopardized if he were identified.
He confirmed Jones’ claim that Jones placed $1,000 to $2,000 bets on the Phillies -- and other baseball teams -- during the 1993 season but denied that he ever cut off Jones’ wagers.
Baseball “conducted a review” in the 1990s and concluded that Dykstra had not been involved in baseball betting, Levin said.
Baseball spokesman Patrick Courtney said that review did not include Jones’ 2004 allegations. “This is all new,” he said.
Since retiring as a player, Dykstra briefly served as a manager in the Cincinnati Reds’ minor league system, and as a spring training outfield instructor with the Mets last year.
“I’m not saying we wouldn’t conduct [an investigation], but it’s our understanding that [Dykstra’s] not in baseball at all right now,” Levin said. “He’s not connected to the Mets.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
The Dykstra File
Full Name: Leonard Kyle Dykstra. Nickname: Nails. Position: OF. Born: Feb. 10, 1963, in Santa Ana. High School: Garden Grove. Drafted: Selected by the New York Mets in the 13rd round of the 1981 amateur draft.
*--* Year Team Age G AB H HR RBI SB AVG SLG 1985 N.Y. 22 83 236 60 1 19 15 254 331 Mets 1986 N.Y. 23 147 431 127 8 45 31 295 445 Mets 1987 N.Y. 24 132 431 123 10 43 27 285 455 Mets 1988 N.Y. 25 126 429 116 8 33 30 270 385 Mets 1989 N.Y. 26 56 159 43 3 13 13 270 415 Mets 1989 Phila 26 90 352 78 4 19 17 222 330 delph ia 1990 Phila 27 149 590 192 9 60 33 325 441 delph ia 1991 Phila 28 63 246 73 3 12 24 297 427 delph ia 1992 Phila 29 85 345 104 6 39 30 301 406 delph ia 1993 Phila 30 161 637 194 19 66 37 305 482 delph ia 1994 Phila 31 84 315 86 5 24 15 273 435 delph ia 1995 Phila 32 62 254 67 2 18 10 264 354 delph ia 1996 Phila 33 40 134 35 3 13 3 261 418 delph ia MLB Totals: 1,278 4,559 1,298 81 404 285 285 419 12 years
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.