San Francisco Chronicle (US), November 28, 2001

Judge throws out defamation suit against 'Hardball'

A federal judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit against the movie "Hardball" by a Little League coach who said the hard-drinking, ticket-scalping coach in the film is supposed to be him.

Securities trader Robert Muzikowski had asked for $11 million in damages from Paramount Pictures and a group of co-defendants for the movie inspired by the book "Hardball: A Season in the Projects."

Muzikowski is a central figure in the book about an inner-city Little League coach. But U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras on Wednesday said the coach in the movie, Conor O'Neill, was not necessarily Muzikowski.

"The character could reasonably be construed to refer to someone other that Muzikowski or to no actual person at all," the judge said in a 10-page ruling.

Kocoras said he partly based his conclusion on the differences between Muzikowski and the fictional O'Neill, played by Keanu Reeves. Muzikowski is a teetotaler who got involved with Little League for philanthropic reasons; O'Neill did it to pay off a gambling debt.

The movie topped the box office the weekend it was released.

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