By Yvonne Villarreal Los Angeles Times
Pull up a chair. James Caan has a story to tell.
The 73-year-old actor is between shots of the ABC comedy “Back in the Game,” which premieres tonight.
He stars as a gruff and boorish ex-pro baseball player trying to reconnect with his adult daughter, who begrudgingly moves back in with him.
Caan is clearly energized telling a heyday yarn about his ol’ buddy Bobby — better known to the rest of America as Robert Duvall — from their time filming the 1969 drama “The Rain People.”
It turns out that Bobby, who played a widowed motorcycle policeman in the movie, was a bit strait-laced.
“Bobby was, like, ‘I’ve got two kids, I ain’t riding a motorcycle!,’” said Caan, doing his best Duvall impression.
“He kept falling off that thing. He never got it right.”
A 52-year career that has stockpiled more than 115 wide-ranging roles — from the legendary Sonny Corleone of “The Godfather” to the broken ankle author in “Misery” — almost demands such reminiscing.
In Caan’s new series, his character is the ultra-competitive dad to Terry Gannon Jr. (Maggie Lawson), a former softball star who finds herself coaching her son’s ragtag Little League team.
Think “Bad News Bears” for TV.
The show’s sports backdrop has Caan in his element. On this day, as a scene with the young folks gets under way on a baseball diamond, Caan instinctively gives a boy a tip on how to hold the bat before filming starts.
“It’s a nice change of pace,” Caan said. “For a long time, unless 12 people were dead by Page 20, I wouldn’t get the part. But I love comedy. I can be funny.”
“Back in the Game” premieres at 8:30 tonight on ABC.