Friday, July 29, 2016

Chuck Connors - Switched Bat for a Rifle

Chuck Connors found his greatest fame on television in the popular western series The Rifleman ( 1958-1963 ), but prior to his acting career, the 6 foot 6 inch giant was a professional basketball player....and then had a successful tenure as a pro baseball player. He took turns playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, and the Los Angeles Angels and today is counted among only 12 athletes having played both MLB and in the NBA. 

During the 1940s, Connors enjoyed basketball, playing with the Boston Celtics, and helping to lead the Rochester Royals to the National Basketball League championship in 1946. He's even credited as being the first pro player to break a backboard. 

He then switched to baseball and played with numerous minor league teams before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. However, even after two years with the team, he only played in one game.....and so he moved onto the Cubs in 1951, where he played 66 games as a first baseman and occasional "pinch hitter". 

It was in 1952 that Connors was spotted by a Hollywood casting director and signed for a small part in the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn comedy Pat and Mike. Oddly enough, he was not cast as a baseball player, but as a police captain! Connors realized he would never make it big in professional sports and so he left the game and decided to become an actor. That brief part led to a bigger role in the John Wayne family drama Trouble Along the Way just one year later, and from there on Connors had credited roles in numerous films of the 1950s, including many television appearances. He eventually found that westerns suited his rugged physique best. 
Chuck Connors beat 40 other actors for the lead on the television series The Rifleman, portraying Lucas McCain, a widowed rancher with an amazing sharp-shooting skill with a Winchester. One sport Connors had never considered - marksmanship - and this was where he found his greatest fame. 

This post is a part of our latest series entitled "Did You Know?".....sometimes we just feel like sharing interesting fragments of television and movie history and now we have a place to do just that. If you have a hot tip that you would like us to share on Silver Scenes, drop us a line!

3 comments:

  1. Great info. You know by looking at him that Chuck could master any sport.

    I always thought Connors deserved an Oscar nod for "The Big Country". He was such a hero on "The Rifleman", but played the coward to the hilt in that great Wyler picture. Of course, I don't deny the win to Burl Ives who played his Pa.

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  2. It was a great career switch! Chuck COnnors and Johnny Crawford may have been the most realistic father-son on television in the 1960s. I've heard Johnny Crawford talk glowingly about his TV dad at a couple of nostalgia conventions.

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  3. I remember being a young teen and learning that he played pro sports before becoming an actor, and just finding that so fascinating. I still do! I've been a Chuck Connors fan since I was probably 8 or 9 and saw my first "Rifleman" ep -- to the point that I named my first dog Lucas after him :-)

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