James Caan's Evolution From Scary Real-Life Little League Coach to Back in the Game's Dad

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James Caan | Photo Credits: Randy Holmes/ABC

What does Sonny Corleone have in common with James Caan's Back in the Game character? Ruthlessness.

At the Television Critics Association fall previews on Sunday, showrunners Robb and Mark Cullen revealed childhood memories of their father, who inspired Caan's Back in the Game character Terry "The Cannon" Gannon. "Our dad coached us in Little League, and he was a horrifying person," Robb Cullen said. In fact, after Cullen suffered an injury during a game, his father threatened, "If you don't hit that kid in the face, you're not getting in the car and sleeping at home tonight."

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Caan is no stranger to playing fierce characters, from The Godfather's Sonny Corleone to Magic City's mob boss Sy Berman. But it's the actor's real-life experiences as a Little League coach that make him uniquely suited to playing The Cannon. "I was not quite The Cannon, but I was enthusiastic," he said. "I got thrown out three times. I chased two of the umpires over the fence with a baseball bat."

On the show, single mom Terry Jr. (Psych's Maggie Lawson) reluctantly returns home after a failed marriage to her overbearing ex-athlete dad. And although her son Danny (Griffin Gluck) isn't the most athletic, he lands on a Little League team with a bunch of other sports rejects. Sound familiar? The Cullens insist that this will not follow the underdog trajectory of The Bad News Bears.

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"These kids will never play well. They will never win a game," Robb Cullen said. "They don't have one gene that spells athleticism. We're trying to get them to score a run."

Check out this sneak peek of Back in the Game, which premieres Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.

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