Lenny Dykstra knew it.
After being traded from the Mets to the Phillies in 1989, the lightly-built center fielder knew that if he wanted to be an everyday Major Leaguer, he couldn’t do that at the size he was playing at that summer.
In an exclusive interview with Scott Miller of Bleacher Report, Dykstra talks about his use of steroids in a wide-ranging interview that covered a multitude of topics, including his stint in jail and legal tangles that are all covered in his upcoming biography, “House of Nails,” due out June 28.
When he was dealt to the Phillies on June 18, 1989, along with relief pitcher Roger McDowell in a deal that sent Juan Samuel to New York, Dykstra weighed 160 pounds. From Miller:
That winter, Dykstra went straight to Vitamin S: Steroids.
"I started because I had to," he says. "I was too small. I didn't forget how to hit. I was too weak."
He scored his first performance-enhancing drugs, he says, astonishingly easy.
"Hillbilly doctor," he says. "I lived in Mississippi with my wife. People live there, you know. My wife was from there. We spent offseasons there.
"I cold-called a dude. I said, 'Hey, man' and told him the deal. I was so far ahead of the curve."
Dykstra had been losing playing time with the Mets, and as he says, you don't get paid if you don't play every day.
"So I said, I need to play," Dykstra says. "I finally got traded to the Phillies in '89, and I'm 150, 140 pounds. So I knew. [Then-Philadelphia general manager] Lee Thomas said, look, we're going to give you 1990. You'll be our everyday guy.
"So I knew '90 was it for me. So that's why I went to the library in Mississippi and looked it up. Ben Johnson, remember? (Johnson, the 100-meter gold medalist in the 1988 Olympics was stripped of his medal when he failed a drug test for steroid use.) I literally called up some doctor in Mississippi and told him the story I'm telling you. I have a family. I have a chance to make a lot of money. It's not that I can't play. I know how to do that. You don't have to teach me that.
"But the schedule is six months. I'm just not physically big enough to hold up. If I can just stay strong…"
In 1990, Dykstra led the NL in hits (192) and on-base percentage (.418), and he ranked fourth in batting average (.325).
In fact, Dykstra’s batting average was still over .400 (.401) as late as June 11, landing him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, back when that was a really big deal.
"And I'm on the cover of Sports Illustrated," he says of the issue dated June 4, 1990. "Coincidence? I think not. That s--t works. I told baseball that."
It certainly seemed to. His steroid of choice, Deca Durabolin, helped him become one of the biggest stars of the game, leading the Macho Row crew to the 1993 NL pennant, and an MVP runner-up finish to a pre-steroid Barry Bonds.
Dykstra’s steroid admission should come as a shock to no one, but it is confirmation that the best player on one of the most beloved teams in Philadelphia history was on the juice.