Linden residents are complaining that former Major League Baseball outfielder Lenny Dykstra is a nuisance, who they say is destroying the quiet neighborhood on the city’s west side.
From 1985 to 1989, Dykstra played with the New York Mets, who won a World Series while he was on the team, and he went to the Philadelphia Phillies from 1989 to 1996.
Since then, he has been striking out in life, losing a vast fortune, facing legal woes and spending time in prison.
Mets fans nicknamed Dykstra “Nails” for his hard-nosed personality and fearless play. In 1986, he posed shirtless for a “beefcake” poster under the “Nails” nickname.
Dykstra and #2 hitter Wally Backman were termed “the Wild Boys” for their scrappy play as spark plugs for the star-studded Met lineup.
Following Dykstra’s home run in the third game of the 1986 World Series, after his team had lost two matches played at Shea Stadium, the Mets rallied to defeat the Red Sox in seven games.
Teammate Keith Hernandez characterized Dykstra, in his book Pure Baseball, as being “on the wild and crazy side”, which he cites as one of the reasons the Mets chose to trade him to the Phillies, where his career was marked by incredible highs and lows.
In May 1991, driving with his Phillies teammate Darren Daulton and with nearly double the legal blood-alcohol limit, Dykstra crashed his speeding car sideways into a tree, seriously injuring both of them.
Injuries plagued Dykstra for the rest of his baseball career.
Dykstra lived the good life after rertiring from baseball, signing autographs and reaping profits from his car-wash business.
“We had him on the payroll for $1 million a year,” said Kevin Dykstra, Lenny’s younger brother, who managed a string of car-wash and quick lube centers in the Los Angeles area for him. “He was enjoying his retirement from baseball, playing a little golf. But then Lenny had to go do what he did.”
A life once brimming with unbridled energy and flush with cash has ground to a bankrupt halt. Dykstra’s wife of 23 years — the mother of his three sons — divorced him. His mother and brothers are estranged from him. Only former teammates appear to feel sorry for what has become of him.
“Believe me when I tell you that his old friends, the guys who played with Lenny, are heartsick thinking about him being confined to a tiny cell,” said Bobby Ojeda, a starting pitcher on the Mets’ 1986 World Series champions, who spoke about his former teammate’s legal troubles in 2011 when Dykstra faced the prospect of going to prison for years.
In early 2009, stories and evidence began to emerge indicating that Dykstra’s financial empire was in a tailspin. Lenny’s wife, Terri, filed for divorce in April 2009 and he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2009, listing less than $50,000 in assets against $10 million to $50 million in liabilities.
By August 2009, he was living out of his car and in hotel lobbies, but he landed in real trouble when his case was converted to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to liquidate the estate and pay creditors.
Three years after he listed his net worth as $58 million, Dykstra was unable to post $500,000 bail and had been appointed a public defender when he was accused in federal court of bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice, along with state charges of identify theft, auto theft and drug possession.
He pleaded no contest to three counts of grand theft auto plus one charge of filing a false financial report, and was sentenced to three years in prison on March 5, 2012.
He also pleaded guilty in federal court to one count each of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets and money laundering.
In 2016, Dykstra released an autobiography titled House of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge, which made it to No. 11 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.
On August 25, 2011, Dykstra was charged with indecent exposure. The Los Angeles City Attorney accused him of placing ads on Craigslist requesting a personal assistant or housekeeping services. The victims alleged that when they arrived, they were informed that the job also required massage service. Dykstra would then disrobe and expose himself.
On May 23, 2018, Dykstra was arrested after uttering terroristic threats and for possession of drugs. After his Uber driver refused to change destinations, Dykstra allegedly held a gun to the head of the driver, who pulled in front of the police station in Linden and summoned officers by honking the car horn.
Police did not find a weapon when they arrested the former ballplayer but did find him in possession of cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy.
On October 10, 2018 Dykstra was indicted by a New Jersey grand jury for cocaine and methamphetamine possession, and making terroristic threats
Those charges are still pending but neighbors who reside near his Stockton Circle home say he is ruining the Linden neighborhood with drugs and prostitution.
“I’m a second-generation Stockton-er,” resident Linda Graham told WABC’s Toni Yates. “I had the privilege of growing up with original owners of these houses. And this guy comes and ruins their whole entire legacy.”
Yates reported that neighbors were starstruck when Dykstra moved to the neighborhood, but they now claim he turned his prorperty into an illegal boarding house where up to 10 people live at a time.
Mayor Derek Armstead said operating a rooming house is prohibited in Linden, and he promised swift enforcement action.
Another neighbor complained Dykstra is attracting transient tenants to the neighborood.
“Knocking on my door at 11 o’clock at night, telling me that it’s Domino’s but there’s no pizza in their hands,” the man said.
“If he’s not in compliance with the current ordinances that are on the books, we will take him to task,” Armstead said.
Dykstra’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
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