It has been a very interesting week in American history. First the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after a 108 year drought, breaking the curse of the Billy Goat. Secondly, the Presidential election is finally over, and no matter whose side you were on, it would be hard to deny that it had its plot twists, keeping it interesting to say the least. So now as we look into the cold, hard baseball-less Winter, we readers need to find new ways to keep ourselves entertained until Pitchers and Catchers report in February. I figured the best way to start out the off season was to start with an undeniable dumpster fire of a book that will help keep all of us warm on those cold nights.
Growing up, Lenny Dykstra for me was the epitome of cool. He played for my hometown Phillies and was the spark plug that ignited the team on a daily basis and his hard nosed play would excite any fan. As the years passed rumors came to light about Lenny’s behavior off the field, but he was still our guy. Fast forward 20 years and you see what a train wreck Dykstra made of his life and those around him that he touched.
House of Nails is Dykstra’s attempt at setting the record straight with the world. Talking candidly about his steroid use, his financial investments and other business dealings along with his time in prison. To some degree it is an apology to some of the people he wronged, but when you read it closer it also seems to feel like Dykstra is still trying to sell the world his program on investing strategies.
The book covers in depth his baseball career and why he thinks he was so awesome on and off the field during his day. He also tells readers how he was wronged by those around him and how the course of events that left him penniless and in prison, were none of his doing. From my perspective I just don’t buy his story. He ran a media marketing circus around this book and just came off as a guy desperate for attention once again. He wanted the reader to buy that he changed his ways in life and was on the road to being a decent guy ready to embrace life. From some of the picture he posted on line he may to some degree be changing, but when you read stories about him screwing respected co-author Peter Golenbock out of his work on this book, you start to see it’s the same old Lenny.
If you want to read a story about a beat up old player trying to relive some of his old glory and tell you why he is the best, then this is the book for you. You get some inside stories about his career, but honestly how much of it is even the truth. Any book that Lenny himself is involved in has to contain some level of B.S.. It just seems to be how Lenny rolls and it is a shame Golenbock got involved with him in the first place.
Check it out if you dare, just don’t stand too close to the flames. It has some value in the baseball book world but will never be considered great literature, even with Peter Golenbock’s touches.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Harper Collins
No matter the subject of a baseball biography, there is some sort of story to be told. Some of these stories are better than others and coincide with the skill level of that particular player. Then there are stories like today’s book that come from an average player that did not put up Hall of Fame numbers, but has a Hall of Fame caliber story to tell baseball fans. A journey that took him all over North America John D’Acquisto’s new book takes a hard and honest look at his life and career and the paths it has led him down. This honest look at his own life opens up a whole new side of John that fans can appreciate.
Fastball John starts the readers on the journey of his life and shows his family roots in San Diego and his journey to become a big league pitcher. Next you learn first hand what it is like to be a first round draft pick with high expectations in a major league setting. Stops with major league teams and a few more stints in the minors are covered as well.
John D’Acquisto shows the readers the ins and outs of what being a baseball player is really like. You see the friendships, the expectations of management, contract disputes and health scares that make up a players life. What I found really interesting is how personal relationships are intertwined within this story. It gives a very intimate touch to a career that is usually unable to sustain those types of relationships. One other factor the the authors were able to incorporate into the story was how the music of the time was able to become part of the moment and permanently ingrained in the memories.
For my money the most interesting part of this story is also one of the saddest. John D’Acquisto’s life after baseball was one of accusations, falsehoods and betrayal that in the end led to some serious jail time. John eloquently tells his side of the story of the events that led up to his incarceration and his time behind bars. The sequence of events that led up to this are almost unbelievable and in the end, when you hear all the details wonder how someone could survive something of this magnitude. For what it’s worth, I believe D’Acquisto’s side of the story, it unfortunately seems to be him trusting the wrong people at the time and the justice system wanting to make an example of someone with a famous name.
Honestly, we have all read the books written by the Superstars and sometimes pass on the stories of a lower tier player. This is one of those times you need to make the effort to read the story of that player. It is a gripping story that shows the genuine side of a Major League Baseball player. He has had good times and some really bad times, but in the end Johnny D. comes across as a pretty cool guy. Loved by the fans of the San Francisco and San Diego, he has paid his dues on both sides of the fence and moved on to well earned greener pastures in his life. Take the time to read this book and you will be able to see their is still some good left in people and read a very enjoyable baseball book at the same time.
Mention the name of Lenny Dykstra to any Mets or Phillies fan and more than likely the response will be positive. Lenny of course, being the spark plug that drove both of those teams to the postseason during his career. Mention Dykstra’s name anywhere else in the world and you will get a markedly different response. Todays book tells us the inside details of why you get such a negative response to Dykstra.
Nailed!-The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra
By:Chris Frankie – 2013 Running Press
On the field Dykstra who was affectionately called “Nails” was a hero to many. His ambitious style of play, and his small stature made him look like an overachiever that every little leaguer could aspire to be like. He found success with both teams he played for in the Major Leagues and the media ate up his goofy personality. In reality what you saw with Dykstra was not necessarily what you got.
After his playing days were over Dykstra started a successful chain of car washes in his native California and tasted success for the first time off of the field. His eventual car-wash empire made him lots of money ($55 Million to be exact) and afforded him the opportunity to dabble in the stock market. After having some success in the market, Dykstra made some new connections in the financial world and that’s when things really started to fall apart. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the rise of Lenny in the stock market world because it will defeat the purpose of you reading the book yourself. Lets just say Dykstra took full advantage of his status as a former ballplayer in New York to make the connections he needed to succeed in the financial field.
Lenny Dykstra for several years left in his wake, broken relationships, bad checks, debts, phony business plans and multiple borderline scams. One would almost wonder was he running a Ponzi scheme in his own mind. Almost anyone willing to invest in Lenny’s businesses, whether it was employees, vendors or investors, got screwed. The underlying theme throughout this book was it didn’t matter who he screwed. Lenny would find someone else to do what he needed and in the end screw them out of some money too. If you bought into his ideas he felt you were loyal but in the end screwed over everyone who worked for him and berated them all at one time or another. Lenny’s final fall from grace came in the form of a prison sentence as we all know. The one time con-man had finally run out of luck.
Chris Frankie is a former Dykstra employee who worked on Lenny’s magazine, The Player’s Club. He like everyone else got screwed out of a ton of money by Dykstra in the form of back pay. He stuck it out longer than some of the other employees and got screwed out of more money than I would ever be willing to risk , but we all have to make are own choices. When I read Frankie was a former employee, I thought he probably had some sort of axe to grind with Lenny. But in the end he still shows some sort of adulation or loyalty to this guy so I don’t think this was any sort of retribution.
This is a really well written book that shows a former stars calculated rise to the top and fall from grace. Anyone who had any shred of admiration for Dykstra should read it to get the real story. Being a Phillies fan I still had some shred of admiration for Dykstra but after reading this book it is all but gone now.
Outside of the book pages and in the real world I feel compelled to share this story. After his recent release from prison Lenny made an appearance at a local diner outside of Philly on the sports talk radio show. I asked my parents if they would go get me an autograph and since it was at a diner I figured they would be glad to do it, and I was not disappointed. After they went I asked my Mom how was their trip to the diner and my mother who usually has something nice to say about every one said this and I quote this exactly……”He looked like an old miserable toad”. Not sure exactly what that meant but my take on it was Lenny had seen better days. So to me after reading this book, and of course getting my Mom’s opinion, Lenny’s fall from grace is complete. I guess on the bright side for him he has nowhere to go but up.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the Running Press
I often wonder like any other fan, what some umpires are thinking. It seems that they almost want to show up the players at times by making themselves not only part of the show, but the show itself. The baiting of players into confrontation has never been one of my favorite scenes. I may be old school in thinking like this, but I enjoy when an umpire blends into the scenery and does his job. Umpires do have the opportunity to some degree, to enhance the show, but never have I ever seen them as THE show. That thought brings us to todays book…
Called Out But Safe – A Baseball Umpire’s Journey
By Al Clark and Dan Schlossberg
2014 University of Nebraska Press
I am never quite sure what to expect from an umpires autobiography. In the past, the books that I have read about umpires portray them as pompous and stuffy, not only on the field, but off the field as well. The one exception to that statement is Ron Luciano’s book. He has been viewed as an odd duck and not widely accepted as a traditional umpire.
I have not been very familiar with Al Clark’s field skills until I read this book. Growing up in a National League city and Clark being an American League umpire most of his career, I rarely saw his work on the field. Clark is very forthcoming in this book and leaves no stone unturned. He covers both his professional and personal life in this book. From his upbringing in New Jersey, to the Minor and Major Leagues, prison time and life after prison. He takes the time to chronicle how he was proud of his craft and what steps he took to become better at it. He reviews his personal accomplishments on and off the field and shows a tremendous pride in being an umpire. For me, the most interesting part of his on-the-field explanations, is the descriptions he gives of how to be a technically better umpire. I think someone in the MLB may want to seriously look at getting him into some sort of umpire scouting or training program, just to improve the current batch that are out there on the field.
I have said in previous reviews, sometimes life is full of redemptions and this book is no exception. Clark goes in to great detail about how he wound up losing his umpiring job and wound up in prison. You get the feeling that Clark learned a lot, from both his on and off the field experiences. I believe through those experiences, it has made him more appreciative for what he has now.
My overall feeling of this book is that Al Clark tried to be the best umpire he could be on the field and the best person he could be off of the field. To err is human, you have to live and learn and I think Clark did just that. If you enjoy books about someone on the field but that person doesn’t have to be a baseball player, this is a book for you. It is a very smooth read and flows very good and was a book I learned something from. It may not be as easy to be an umpire as it looks, after all!
You can get this book from the fine folks at University of Nebraska Press