Dennis Quaid

Comeback tale for both actor, pitcher

Critical analysis: “Mr. Quaid has long been a reliably likable actor, but this time he pitches a perfect performance — no frills, no tricks, not a single false note ….”

— Joe Morgenstern on “The Rookie,” Wall Street Journal

Awards pedigree: Supporting actor Golden Globe nom for “Far From Heaven.” Won 1988 Indie Spirit Award for “The Big Easy.” Won SAG Award as part of cast for “Traffic.”

Upcoming: “Cold Creek Manor” with Sharon Stone; “The Alamo” with Billy Bob Thornton; “The Day After Tomorrow” with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward

As Dennis Quaid ran onto the field at an actual Texas Rangers game to film a scene in “The Rookie” — in which his real-life character, Jim Morris, makes his Major League debut — he was understandably nervous. There was only one take made available to the filmmakers.

“All I could think was, just don’t trip and fall flat on your face in front of all these people,” he laughs.

It went without a hitch, as did the rest of the movie. Quaid’s heartfelt portrayal of Morris, the oldest rookie in Major League Baseball who could pitch 98 mph, was so well received it’s put Quaid’s career on a hot track.

But it’s not just his role in “The Rookie” that has tongues wagging. His repressed homosexual supporting turn in “Far From Heaven” has already earned Quaid best supporting actor honors from the New York Film Critics Circle and nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards and the Golden Globes.

For “The Rookie,” the effortless onscreen pitches were the result of much offscreen arm work: Quaid practiced for three months with former Dodgers reliever Jim Gott to perfect his form.

“I read the script and thought it was so well written, the story really took me,” Quaid says. “I remember seeing the ‘Nightline’ piece on Jimmy Morris a few years before that. It put a big smile on my face.”

Morris’ boyhood dream of playing in the majors ended in 1988 when he blew out his shoulder. But 10 years later, the high-school coach wanted his team to win so badly that he agreed to try out for the majors if his guys won the district championship. A few months later, he was pitching for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Quaid was drawn to the real-life story about second chances — and to the real Morris, who came to the set every day.

“He’s a man that has true humility in his life,” Quaid says. “He puts others before himself and that’s how he lives his life.”