October 28, 1996 12:00 PM

>The Dwight Gooden Movie


IF EVER A BASEBALL STORY LOOKED like a natural-born movie, it was the Dwight Gooden story last spring. After a dizzying rise to fame with the New York Mets and an equally spectacular fall from grace as a result of drug use, Gooden, 31, who had been suspended from baseball three times, was given one last chance to prove himself—and he signed on last winter with the Yankees. At first the pitcher struggled to find his old form. Then, on May 14, he threw a no-hitter against Seattle in Yankee Stadium. The next day he flew to Tampa to be at the bedside of his father, Dan, who underwent successful heart surgery the next day.

It was almost too “Hollywood” to be true, and Gooden signed a deal (for less than the reported $1 million) with former Warner Bros, studio head Bruce Berman and producer Norman Twain. But then Gooden’s season fell apart, and by late September he had a mediocre 11-7 record and was having trouble getting the ball over the plate. When the Yankees made the playoffs, manager Joe Torre cut Gooden from the roster.

To a normal person, Gooden’s movie probably sounds like not such a hot property. But to a couple of Hollywood producers? No problem. Who needs the World Series when you have a High Concept? From the outset, they insist, the plan was to begin and end the film with Gooden’s no-hitter and flash back to past seasons in between. Berman, who still hopes to sign Denzel Washington for the lead, says the story “will make a powerful inspirational movie about redemption.”

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