In a provocative piece scheduled to air on the HBO program "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" tomorrow night (10 o'clock), correspondent Bernard Goldberg updates a segment that initially aired in March 2008 on Lenny Dykstra, the former Phillies star who has since become the target of some 20 lawsuits from his activities as a financial entrepreneur.
On the heels of widespread claims that the jet-setting Dykstra has left a string of unpaid bills in his wake - in fact, he would appear to be broke - Goldberg assembled six people who say that Dykstra has stiffed them, including a flight attendant who said that Dykstra charged $10,700 on her credit card to reserve a private plane in Ohio. Others said they are owed even more by Dykstra, who is entangled in a web of personal issues that includes the divorce from his wife of 23 years and the foreclosure of the $18.5 million estate he purchased from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. HBO provided the Daily News with an advance copy of the program.
Goldberg found a defiant Dykstra at his unfurnished mansion, where the door had been left unlocked. When no one answered, Goldberg walked inside and began calling out for Dykstra: "Lenny? Anybody home? Hello? Mr. Dykstra?"
Close to a half-hour later, Dykstra came downstairs for their scheduled appointment, which resulted in what Goldberg called "something vaguely resembling a conversation." Dykstra denied owing anyone money, including the $280,000 allegedly owed to the printer of The Players Club, the glossy lifestyle magazine for pro athletes that Dykstra launched last spring.
DYKSTRA: Who? Tell me who I owe?
GOLDBERG: Let's go through a few people. The printers . . .
DYKSTRA: F--- the printers. The printers are criminals.
GOLDBERG: The flight attendant?
DYKSTRA: F--- the flight attendant . . . They all think they can come here and steal my money.
Dykstra says the legal cases against him are "all bull----."
Goldberg asked Dykstra what he would say to people "who think once upon a time you were flying high and now you're broke?"
Dykstra laughed and withdrew a wad of bills, which he began counting. Goldberg said, "OK, so you've got $75 in your pocket, that doesn't make you rich." To which Dykstra replied, "I never carry less than $1,000. But flying high? Looks like I'm still flying pretty f------ high. And by the way, I'm flying higher."
But a woman who worked for Dykstra as his personal assistant told Goldberg otherwise. She said that 90 percent of her day was occupied by "consoling people who were owed money" by Dykstra, who became a celebrated supplier of stock picks via his newsletter "Nails on the Numbers." The personal assistant said vendors told her that they "fronted [Dykstra] with the hope that [they] could trust him."
Goldberg asked, "This was commonplace?"
"It was all day, every day," said the former personal assistant, who won a $7,400 judgment from Dykstra in small claims court that is still unpaid. "There were calls at 6 a.m. screaming at me, cursing at me."
Dykstra told Goldberg he is the victim, and has filed civil suits himself against some of his alleged creditors. Goldberg points out that no prosecutor in any jurisdiction has filed criminal charges against him.
Few players were as colorful in the annals of Philadelphia sports as Dykstra. Cited as a steroid user in the 2007 report by Sen. George Mitchell into performance-enhancing drugs in baseball - a fact the HBO piece did not address and which Dykstra has denied - Dykstra played for the 1986 world champion New York Mets and 1993 National League champion Phillies. A chronic back injury forced him to quit baseball in the spring of 1998.
He opened three car washes in southern California, sold them for a reported $55 million and began what Goldberg called his "unlikely journey into finance," which later led to publication of his newsletter and magazine. He also became obsessed with the world of private jets, $400,000 German cars and sprawling estates.
Goldberg said Dykstra is now "wife-less, car-less, plane-less and may soon be homeless," unless he can come up with enough money to forestall eviction.
But Dykstra does not appear to be concerned.
He showed Goldberg a photo of a dog he planned to buy for $10,000.
Dykstra said proudly, "That's a world champion, that's the only dog I'll buy." *