Remembering Connie, Sammy and Lenny

LENNY DYKSTRA signs copies of his book, "House of Nails." (Debby Wong/Shutterstock.com).

LENNY DYKSTRA signs copies of his book, “House of Nails.” (Debby Wong/Shutterstock.com).

It’s a time of history, loss and personalities in the Trib’s coverage area. Three prominent locals were in the news this week, and there will soon be new mayors in two of our cities. So bear with me as we ramble around.

First, the death of Connie Margolin was reported a few days ago. A prominent long-time figure in Garden Grove, she was active in many civic functions and served for a time as president of the Chamber of Commerce. Connie was one of what we call “The Garden Grove 100,” a term we apply to the reliable, steady people always willing to donate their time, brains and energy to good causes. She will be missed.

retortsWe’re not quite as proud of our connection to Sammy Lee, an Olympic diver who won two gold medals (1948 and 1952) and who passed away last week. A man of Korean descent, he was the first Asian American to win the gold for the United States.

But, apparently, that distinction worked against him in some ways. In 1954, he sought to buy a house in Garden Grove, an effort that raised controversy. He was discouraged from doing so based on his race, and eventually found a home in Santa Ana.

Such housing bias was not uncommon in the Fifties. In that era, some homes being sold in the area carried restrictions on the deed against reselling a house to blacks, Hispanics, Asians and – in some cases – Jews. The courts and legislation have since struck down all such measures, but it’s a reminder of how much race was on the minds of Californians a half-century or so ago.

THE THIRD personality inviting our attention is Lenny Dykstra, whose autobiography, “House of Nails: A Memoir of Life on the Edge,” was recently published. Dykstra was a local boy, having starred in several sports at Garden Grove High, and made his name in major league baseball.

His story is a warts-and-all memoir. He comes across as the kind of arrogant and hard-charging athlete we saw in the media, someone willing to do almost anything to win, on the field and off.

Dykstra started as a slight fellow who made his early career as a singles hitter and base-stealer. He starred for the New York Mets and later the Philadelphia Phillies, but his career was dotted with arrests, accusations of steroid use, and eventually, bankruptcy.

In his book, Dykstra brags about how his athletic prowess gained him, uh, romantic access to some of the prettiest girls in high school, and proclaims himself “the best baseball player in the history of Garden Grove High.” That could be true, but based on his numerous arrests, prison sentence and other misdeeds, it’s hard to say – even on balance – that he was a local boy done good.

MY INTERVIEW with Garden Grove mayor-elect Steve Jones covered a lot of ground; too much for one article. But one area I did want to mention is his plans to provide for more parkland. “Garden Grove has adequate open space, if you count schoolyards,” he said.

One of his initiatives will be to work closely with the Garden Grove Unified School District to expand joint use of those yards, and to staff and program some of them so the community can have more parkland without the huge added expense of buying new land and building a new park (or parks) on it.

That’s potentially a significant move: as far as I can tell, all the intermediate and elementary school yards in the city are locked shut on weekends. As a kid, I enjoyed many hours of pickup football, basketball and baseball fun in those yards; it would be nice to see the locks come off, at least part of the time.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears each Wednesday. Almost always.


1 reply »

  1. It would be nice if the GGHS pool could be available for lap swimming on a regular basis, much like Corona Del Mar and Newport Harbor High Schools

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