Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"House of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge"

Lenny Dykstra has lived quite a life.

To most baseball fans, he's remembered as the sparkplug of the 1986 World Series champion Mets and 1993 National League champion Phillies. But in recent years, he's known as an entrepreneur who has done time in prison fraud and money laundering.

A former assistant of his wrote a book three years ago talking about the hell it was to work for him, and certainly didn't cast Dykstra in the best of any light. Now, we get Lenny's side of the story, in a recently published autobiography called "House of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge." (William Morrow Books) (And by the way, the former assistant appears nowhere in this tome.)

Lenny absolutely lets it ALL hang out this book. It's filled with tons of colorful language, so if that offends you, it might not be the book for you. But, like passing a total car wreck, you might want to check this out.

Even in his young life, he was always a confident guy, bordering on total cockiness. Despite being young and smaller in stature than most baseball players in high school, he forced his way on to his high school team, and it served him well. (He tells a funny story about meeting Fred Lynn, then of the Angels, back in the early 1980s at a tryout at Angel Stadium.)

Dykstra came to prominence as an outfielder with the Mets in early 1985, and his hard style of play earned him the nickname "Nails." He talks plenty about his time in New York, and his relationships with the Mets stars, like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. But not all of them come away with his admiration. He has no use for manager Davey Johnson, who he claims was either drunk or hungover most of the time he was with the Mets. And he gets the knives out for one-time Mets phenom Gregg Jefferies, who he called "clueless" and "bizarre." (Dykstra calling anyone "bizarre" is pretty out there.)

He moved on to the Phillies in 1989, and opens up on his use of amphetamines, and especially, steroids. Dykstra says he had to go on the juice if he wanted to play baseball on a full time basis, and of course, make big money.

Sports were a big part of his early life, but once he retired in 1996, he turned his attention to the stock market, and making REALLY big money. He also opened a string of very successful car washes in Southern California, and he was allegedly worth about $50 million at one point. Dykstra takes his readers on his journeys, about what it was like to have his own private jet and fly around the world at a moment's notice.

Dykstra also goes into plenty of detail about his celebrity friends, including Charlie Sheen. He claims he was the one who urged Sheen to come clean to the world about his HIV diagnosis, and tried many times to get him clean of his addictions to drugs and alcohol. He also tells a rather strange tale of his relationship with Robert DeNiro, how they parties and did drugs together, but after Lenny met him a few years later, DeNiro had almost no idea who he was.

Lenny's book rivals that of any rock star's biography, with talks of wild excess. He paints a picture of an indestructable star, but of course, the fall headed his way was inevitable. He talks about how he tried to get clean (with a harrowing account of going to Israel to try some new way not approved in the US). But the fall that comes his way is over buying Wayne Gretzky's California estate in 2007, and the stock market tanking. He eventually gets nailed (if you'll pardon the pun) for bankruptcy fraud, and goes away for 2 1/2 years. He paints a very dismal picture of his life behind bars.

Dykstra's book is a cautionary tale for sure. In the final end, he realizes what's really important in life, namely his kids and a new grandson. But it is an enjoyable read (whether Lenny's telling the whole truth is anyone's guess, to be honest). You feel like you are sharing a beer with him as he tells you the ups and downs of his life.

And Lenny Dykstra's life hasn't been boring, that's for sure.

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