Lenny Dykstra ended one season with the Phillies as skinny as an orphan begging for spare change on a street corner. He came to Clearwater, Fla., the following spring looking like a miniature "Incredible Hulk," attributing his new muscles to a weight-lifting regimen and "real good vitamins."
From that moment on, the rumors of steroid use dogged the Dude. He always denied it, sometimes with a snarl, sometimes with a twinkle in his eye.
Now Randall Lane, the former Washington bureau chief of Forbes magazine, has written a book called "The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade Wall Street Went Insane" in which Dykstra allegedly confessed.
One of those misadventures, it seems, was becoming financially involved with Dykstra. And that involvement, he writes, led to an admission by Dykstra that, yes, he used steroids. Book excerpts appear on the Daily Beast Web site.
Wrote Lane, quoting Dysktra: "You gotta understand, there were only 28 people who had my job in the whole world." He was referring to the fact that there were only 28 Major League Baseball teams (there are now 30), and that each only had one starting centerfielder. "And thousands of people wanted those jobs, and every year, there were guys trying to take my job.
"So I needed to do anything I could to protect my job, take care of my family. Do you have any idea how much money was at stake? Do you?"
There are actually now 30 teams in the major leagues.
Lane said the admission came during a late-night conversation in February 2008 when he was in Dykstra's New York hotel room to convince him to pay $250,000 he owed in connection with the publication of a glossy magazine he was publishing at the time.
As it happened, Roger Clemens has testified before Congress that day after being fingered in the Mitchell Report as a user of performance-enhancing substances. Dykstra's name had also been included by Mitchell's investigators. As the reports aired on a continuous cable loop, Dykstra blurted out his confession.
"You know," Lenny said, finally breaking the ice. "I was like a pioneer for that stuff."
"Excuse me, Lenny?"
"The juice. I was like the very first to do that. Me and [Jose] Canseco."
He straightened up, as he prepared, somewhat proudly, to reveal his role in this dangerous, unseemly history.
Lee Thomas was general manager of the Phillies at the time. He has said that he confronted Dykstra at the time and that the player adamantly denied he was doing anything wrong. Thomas noted that, under the terms of the Collective Bargain Agreement then in effect, he was powerless to do anything but tell the player not to do anything illegal.
Dykstra seems to have convinced himself he hadn't really done anything wrong.
"At first it wasn't even illegal. Then, after a few years, I had to go to a doctor, and get a prescription. You know how I got my stuff? Just walking into a pharmacy, bro. It was as simple as that."
There seems little doubt, though, that he would have used steroids regardless. Dykstra often talked openly about how short a player's career was and how he must do everything possible to maximize his earning potential while he had the opportunity.
His big payday came after he helped take the 1993 Phillies to the World Series. That winter he signed a 4-year, $24.9 million extension that kicked in beginning with the 1995 season.
Lane notes that the Phillies agreed to the deal after Dykstra finished second in the National League MVP voting while leading the league in hits, walks, at bats and runs. He set a major league record with 773 plate appearances and had career highs in homers, RBI doubles, stolen bases, on base percentage and slugging percentage.
He never came close to those numbers again. In 1994 he spent time on the disabled list with appendicitis and appeared in just 84 games. The next year he began experiencing the back problems that ended his career when he was just 33 years old.
Concluded Lane: What Lenny Dykstra really did, by his own admission, was steal $25 million. He had duped the Phillies into that contract based on a completely manufactured performance. But he didn't view it that way. "Real money, bro, there's no way you can't do everything and anything you can to maximize that."
Of course, what he conveniently left out was the worthy candidate who played by the rules-and chose not to endanger his long-term health-and didn't get that job because Lenny cheated. Or the worthy pitcher on another team who lost his job because a 160-pound weakling turned 200-pound muscleman tagged an ill-timed, artificial home run off him.
Nobody who followed the Phillies at the time will be surprised by this revelation. Steroid cheats almost always deny what they've done, with Rafael Palmeiro setting the standard for outraged denial. The only mild shock is that it took this long for the Dude to get busted.