Retired Baseball Player Sues Ex-Teammate Over Racism Claim

(CN) – Retired outfielder Lenny Dykstra sued his former New York Mets teammate Ron Darling for defamation Tuesday, claiming Darling’s new book falsely accuses Dykstra of hurling racial slurs at a black Boston Red Sox pitcher during a World Series game.

In the lawsuit filed in New York County Supreme Court, Dykstra, 56, attacks the retired pitcher’s portrayal of him in a recently published book called “108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns, and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game.” 

According to the complaint, Darling painted the unflattering and inaccurate portrait of Dykstra, a former Mets outfielder, only to promote the book and boost sales. He claims the book fictionalizes the World Series incident, that former teammates have come out in his defense, and that the target of the supposed taunts, former Sox pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, has publicly stated that he never heard them. 

“Darling has sought to capitalize on plaintiff’s complicated past, and intentionally, falsely and maliciously portrayed plaintiff as a racist, an irremovable stain and permanent cloud which will forever diminish Mr. Dykstra, stalk him, and preclude him from unknowable professional and personal relationships and benefits,” the lawsuit states.

Represented by attorney Matthew Blit of Levine & Blit, Dykstra also names the book’s publishers St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Publishing Group as defendants. Blit could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. 

In a tweeted statement, Darling did not mention Dykstra by name but said that because of a legal threat he could not comment.

“Even though my recently released book 108 Stiches has sparked some controversy, I stand by all recollections that were written, but I do regret that my former teammates have been approached for comment,” Darling wrote in the April 4 tweet. 

In one extended passage cited in the lawsuit, Darling recounts events during the third game of the 1986 World Series at Fenway Park, when Boyd, a black man pitching for the Red Sox, was on the “receiving end of the ugliest piece of vitriol I’ve ever heard – in a bar, on a baseball diamond … anywhere.”

Darling wrote that Dykstra, who he describes as “a criminal in every sense” and “one of baseball’s all-time thugs,” hurled abuse at Boyd as he was warming up on the mound, “shouting every imaginable and unimaginable insult and expletive in his direction – foul, racist, hateful, hurtful stuff.” 

“I don’t want to be too specific here, because I don’t want to commemorate this dark, low moment in Mets history in that way, but I will say that it was the worst collection of taunts and insults I’d ever heard – worse, I’m betting, than anything Jackie Robinson might have heard, his first couple times around the league,” according to the passage cited in the complaint.

He goes on to write that that Dykstra’s alleged verbal abuse was “beyond the pale… Unprintable, unmentionable, unforgettable,” but that he believes it helped put Boyd off his game, allowing Dykstra to hit a home run and turn the game in the Mets’ favor.

“It’s only in retrospect that I started to feel somewhat complicit and that by accepting the gifts that fell Lenny’s way as a result of the ugly treatment of the opposing pitcher, I was an accomplice of a kind,” Darling wrote, according to the lawsuit.

However, Dykstra’s 11-page complaint states that “no such racist tirade ever occurred.” He says former players Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Kevin Mitchell have defended him and that Boyd himself “has publicly denied hearing or knowing about such a rant.”

Dykstra alleges Darling also made the claims during his book tour and that the publishers “did not make any efforts whatsoever to verify Darling’s claims.”

In 2012, Dykstra was sentenced in a Los Angeles court to three years in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud and other charges. He was released in July 2013 after serving six and a half months.

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