Ex-Met Strikes Out in New York Court
Steven T. Lowe
On May 29, 2020, New York State Court Judge, Robert D. Kalish, tossed retired professional baseball star Lenny Dykstra’s defamation suit against former teammate, Ron Darling, finding that an unsavory depiction of Dykstra in Darling’s recent book couldn’t further besmirch Dykstra’s “already tarnished reputation.”
In July 2019, Dykstra filed and in September 2019, later amended a complaint with the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Ronald Darling, ghostwriter Daniel Paisner, publisher St. Martin’s Press LLC, and parent company MacMillan Publishing Group LLC, for allegedly defamatory statements made in Darling’s 2019 book that implied Dykstra was racist.
Darling’s book entitled, “108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns, and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game,” briefly discusses Dykstra’s “unprintable” taunts directed at a Boston Red Sox pitcher during Game 3 of the 1986 World Series, while both Dykstra and Darling were briefly teammates on the New York Mets.
As a result, Dykstra claimed that the reference not only brands him as a racist, but also tarnishes the Mets’ 1986 World Series Championship by falsely claiming that his celebrated home run which inspired the Mets’ comeback was actually the result of “racist taunts.”
Darling, however, moved to dismiss Dykstra’s lawsuit, arguing that Dykstra’s notoriety for abusive conduct and racially charged language was well-documented before the publication of the book, and thus Darling’s references to Dykstra couldn’t cause any more harm to his character.
In the recent decision, the court sided with Darling and determined that this is one of the “rare circumstances” where the “libel-proof plaintiff doctrine applied”—which basically denies recovery to plaintiffs with exceedingly poor reputations.
Specifically, Judge Kalish noted that Dykstra was “infamous for being, among other things, racist, misogynist, and anti-gay, as well as a sexual predator, a drug abuser, a thief, and an embezzler.” The judge further continued that the nature, seriousness, and publicity of Dykstra’s criminal offenses, “have already established his general bad reputation for fairness and decency far worse than the alleged racially charged bench-jockeying in the reference could.”
Finally, the court remarked that it saw no “legal basis” for why it should expend its limited time and resources litigating whether Dykstra engaged in “yet another example of bigoted behavior.”
Dykstra is represented by Russell S. Moriarty and Matthew J. Blit of Levine & Blit PLLC.
Darling is represented by the Law Offices of Michael G. Berger.
St. Martin’s Press, Macmillan and Daniel Paisner are represented by Robert D. Balin and Kathleen E. Farley of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.
The case is Lenny Dykstra v. St. Martin’s Press LLC et al., case number 153676/2019, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.