For longtime

Clint Howard was two years old when he appeared in five episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.” He has worked consistently for six decades while closely following his favorite sports teams and chasing around lost golf balls. (Submitted)

Clint Howard said it was the principle. The decision could be one of his great sports-related regrets.

As Laker season ticket holders Clint and brother Ron endured some losing seasons driving from their home in Burbank to the Forum. In 1979, things changed.

Rookie Magic Johnson was drafted and teamed-up with the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The franchise was crowned NBA Champs in 1980. Showtime was born.

The Howard Brothers had great seats, until they didn’t.

“We sat in the corner, 12 feet above the basket. They were awesome seats,” Clint said. “After they won, the owner jacked up the prices by $15 a ticket. They skyrocketed. It wasn’t we didn’t have money; it’s just we have a little bit of our dad in us.

“I would like to know what those tickets cost now … probably one of the most foolish moves I’ve made.”

Lakers and winning became synonymous. The franchise secured five titles that decade. Clint the hoops fan transitioned into Clint the sports fan.

He golfed and listened to Rams games on the radio. He played baseball.

“I played high school ball at John Burroughs High School,” he recalled. “I pitched three years, but as a 5-foot, 8-inch guy my curveball was not gonna get to another level.”

A longtime working actor with more than 200 credits on his resume dating back to 1960, Clint has enjoyed a unique journey in Hollywood.

He is recognized, but even those recognizing him generally aren’t quite sure where to place him. He is more than a character actor. It’s like he is a character actor of a character actor.

Clint has had minor roles in popular shows like “Seinfeld” (he was the Smog Strangler) and the original “Star Trek” (kid alien Balok), one of four different “Star Trek” incarnations he has been included in.

In 1994 he starred in the B-horror movie “Ice Cream Man,” a cult classic. Now he is writing and producing another “Ice Cream Man” with a goal to play a crusty old ice cream peddler in 2024.

He has been involved in shows that went nowhere. He has forgotten some roles altogether. But one clearly stands out — the blockbuster film “Apollo 13,” a darling at the 1996 Oscars show.

“It was a spectacular job of directing,” Clint described. “It was very well written, and the cast was superb. It was like the movie gods came down and kissed everything about that movie. I can watch it over and over again and not get bored.

“My role was significant, too, and I felt I made a solid contribution. ‘Apollo 13’ is one of the top five movies I’ve seen.”

The movie’s director (Ron) referenced by Clint is his brother. Ron was also his former partner on those golden Lakers seats. Most remember Ron from his role as Richie Cunningham in the mega-hit “Happy Days.” Later he found even more success as a director, producer and screenwriter.

Ron and Clint’s passion for entertainment never trumped their love of sports. They were not movie centric; rather they were sports centric.

“My first memory in life is climbing onto my brother’s back as he’s reading the sports page,” Clint said. “He was 7 years old. I was 2. He had the newspaper and would lay down and read the box scores, read me the accounts of local games.”

One of the unique aspects relating to “Happy Days” is Clint played the role of Ron’s brother — yes, a real stretch — on the show. They were the Cunningham Boys on the sitcom — it became the No. 1 program in 1976 — and the show used sport to promote the series. Much to the liking of Clint.

“The ‘Happy Days’ softball team made public appearances,” he said. “We played all around the country, including Anaheim Stadium and Dodger Stadium. We played in front of 50,000 people at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.”

As Clint got older, work on the big screen and the small screen continued, and other interests began. It was competing in golf, though, which became Howard’s true passion. Starting in 1990, in between auditions and actual on-camera work, he played some 150 rounds a year.

“I may have worked a lot but there are many days where the phone is not ringing,” Clint said. “It can be poisonous, so I learned to get out of the house and go play 18 holes.”

Unfortunately, he was forced to give up the game.

“I played for a while with the first artificial hip, but with the second one I could not turn well and only drove the ball 130 yards,” Clint described. “I took the game seriously. It still drives me crazy when I see a golfer who should be a bowler.”

As for those lost nights battling freeways to make tip-off, the Brothers Howard can’t get those lost hardcourt memories back, at a time the Lakers franchise was forging their way into becoming a global brand.

Ultimately, Clint has no regrets. He and Ron are still tight, spending time together in a unique way: Ron has booked Clint in nearly 20 of his movies.

And with so many jobs over the years — Clint next appears in “The Old Way” film — Howard needs the time to sign residual checks from those countless acting gigs he has enjoyed.

“I have gotten a check for a penny,” he said. “It was a 2 cent gross and 1 cent net. When I got the check in the mail, I called my dad to tell him the other penny went to the federal government

“The lesson is, they always get their money.”

A revenge Western, “The Old Way” hits theatres January 6. It features, among others, Nicolas Cage, Ryan Kiera Armstrong and Clint.