Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Gooden’s life has always been a Hollywood movie; just ask Denzel.

We’re sitting at a fancy restaurant in Hollywood California. We are waiting for that era’s biggest movie Star Denzel Washington.

The people at the table are Bruce Berman the producer from Warner Brothers, Norman Twain, an independent producer who just had great success with the film Lean On Me, Cylk Cozart, an actor who had just completed a film called Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson and co-starred, believe it or not, with me and Andy Garcia in a film called Blue Skies Again (also for Warner Brothers), and Dwight Gooden who had just completed one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history.

After having shoulder surgery and then being suspended from baseball for a drug addiction issue, the whole baseball world counted him out with the exception of the great Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Many people told the boss not to gamble on him, that he would break his heart; and some of the so-called experts told him that he was done and that maybe he should send him to the minors. Even his manager was not really a fan but that’s a story for another day. The bottom line was that the Boss would not have none of it.

As far as he was concerned, Doc Gooden was one of the greats of the game and the Boss wanted to see some of that greatness splash on Yankee Stadium. He was determined to wait as long as it took, and his patience paid off.

On May 14, 1996, Doc Gooden would pitch the only no-hitter of his career beating the very power-packed Seattle Mariners. You’re talking about a team with Alex Rodriguez and future hall of famers Ken Griffey and Edgar Martinez. You’re talking about an emotional day for Doc because his true hero, his father Dan, was going to have open heart surgery without any guarantee that he would survive. 

Yet the good Doctor made the impossible possible! As the final out settled in Derek Jeter’s glove all of a sudden, all the haters were saying that they knew that Doc could do it. The only one who didn’t say anything but smiled with satisfaction was George Steinbrenner, who was sitting at the hospital with the Gooden family when Doc arrived to see his dad. It’s a beautiful story that brings tears to my eyes as I write this because I was there to witness this wonderful yet sad moment in my Yankee history.

Now back to the restaurant scene, I have to tell you that one of Dwight’s bad habits is that he is very impatient, and because people in our business lie so much and tell you what you want to hear, Doc just lacks trust. Denzel was probably a half hour late, so since Doc really didn’t know Cylk, he thought that Cylk may have been full of it. At one point Doc turned to me and said, “I knew this was bulls***…”

The natural idea was for Denzel to play Doc in a movie about his life. Just when Doc was about to give up and go home, all of a sudden in true Hollywood fashion, Denzel Washington walked through the door with his young son. Denzel was wearing a Yankee hat and the resemblance then was unbelievable. They could have been brothers. If you could have seen Doc’s face, he had the look of a little boy seeing Santa Claus on Christmas.

I can’t speak for Doc, but I think he was almost as excited about getting together with Denzel as he was about the no-hitter. Through the years many people had made the comparison, and to Doc, Denzel was almost a hero. The meeting went great and I can honestly say that Denzel really wanted to play Doc. A deal was struck with Warner Brothers and Village Roadshow, which is a subsidiary of Warner Brothers. Unfortunately, things happen, and the film has never been made.

I recently talked to Denzel and his close friend, Lowes Moore, about Doc, and Denzel said that even though he has gotten too old to play the young Doc, maybe he can still play the older Doc, which is a movie in itself. Any way you put it, you can’t take away the greatness of what was once Doctor K, arguably the greatest of his day, and that era’s greatest actor, Denzel Washington, and what can still be an all-time great movie.

Hey as we say in recovery, One Day at A Time!

Hey! Are you enjoying NYCTastemakers? Make sure to join our mailing list for NYCTM and never miss the chance to read all of our articles!