NEW YORK -- James Caan was born in the Bronx during Spring Training 1940, a rare year that did not result in a World Series title for the Yankees team he has loved ever since.
The legendary actor and former semipro infielder dropped by the MLB Fan Cave to pose for a photo with the World Series trophy and promote Caan's first role in a baseball-themed production: "Back in the Game," which was set to premiere Wednesday night on ABC.
It just so happened that on the same night, his Yankees were in position to be officially eliminated from postseason contention. The Red Sox and Dodgers, two teams he grew to hate, already have clinched. He has clearly already moved on to 2014.
Caan regaled the three remaining Cave Dwellers -- April Whitzman, Danny Faris and Mina Park -- with stories about glory days watching Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and even persuading a Montreal Expos club official to show an umpire's missed call on the Olympic Stadium scoreboard. Best known for his Academy Award-nominated role of Sonny Corleone in the 1972 film "The Godfather," Caan won acclaim a year earlier playing a sports figure in the TV movie "Brian's Song," as dying Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo.
Now, at last, he gets to wear a baseball cap. Caan plays Terry "The Cannon" Gannon Sr., a crusty former Minor Leaguer who coaches a team of misfits called the Angles, your average T-shirt order typo. His daughter Terry, played by Maggie Lawson, is a former All-American softball player who coaches the team and turns to him for help. Terry's son Danny (Griffin Gluck) is on the team.
"No. 1, it's funny," Caan said. "The writers and creators are all guys that belong in a home. They're that ridiculously funny. Baseball literally is the background, but it's about this family that was brought together by baseball and separated by baseball, and then trying to be brought together again through baseball through the daughter, the father and the grandson.
"I play this horrifying coach, and she plays my beautiful daughter who still has a little of my blood in her, and I'm teaching the kid how to be me so eventually she'll have two of us to deal with."
What does it mean to finally play a baseball role?
"It's important, because I know about it," he said. "I have my own little coaching methods. My son Scott, he was really good. I coached kids for six years, and I thought I had front-row seats at Yankee Stadium because he had scholarships. But he decided to become a ... thespian."
He longs for the days when starters always went the distance and players stayed with the same team. And he hopes for the Yankees' captain to be back strong next season in the Bronx.
"Derek Jeter will be back next year," Caan said. "He's got tremendous talent. On top of that, he's a really nice guy."