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Fingering 'Nails'

Former outfielder Dykstra is alleged to have taken steroids before 1993 season and to have helped a friend with bets on games.

April 24, 2005|Lance Pugmire

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.

Steroid Allegations

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.

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