Chuck Connors was an American actor and professional baseball and basketball player, born on April 10, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York City, USA. He is known for his memorable role in the TV series “The Rifleman” and the movie “Old Yeller”.
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Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors was born the only son of Marcella and Alban Connors, Irish immigrants from Newfoundland and Labrador. The Great Depression of the 1930s left his father unemployed for years, and his mother became the backbone of the family, scrubbing floors in office buildings.
This resulted in Kevin and his younger sister Gloria growing up with the harshness of poverty. In his youth and following the Roman Catholic tradition of his family, Connors became an altar boy at Sunset Park’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica school, which he also attended.
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Since childhood, Connors displayed amazing physical prowess and talent in a variety of sports, an ability that earned him a place to play on the local baseball team, Bay Ridge Celtics, and where he met coach John Flynn, who helped Connors get a college scholarship. to get to attend Adelphi Academy. In addition to playing football and basketball during his high school days, Connors became a valuable asset to the baseball team. He reportedly received numerous scholarship offers to attend various colleges.
In the end, however, he chose Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where he played on both the college’s basketball and baseball teams.
Rumor has it that Kevin changed his name during college because he hated his first name “Kevin”.
Following a story told by his sister Nancy in 1997, Connors decided to adopt a name he saw fit for him, trying various nicknames such as “Lefty”, “Stretch” and finally “Chuck”, which stemmed from the modified expression he would yell from his first base position to the pitcher ‘Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!’.
However, other sources contradict this rumor and even Connors said something else in 1945“They called me Chuck when I started playing baseball because they thought Kevin was effeminate.” So the year in which he officially began to become so famous has not been disclosed.
Baseball – First Steps
Connors had been an avid fan of the now-defunct Brooklyn Dodgers since he was a kid.
His dream of joining the team became a reality in 1940 when he signed a contract to play with them in a minor league, putting his studies aside for baseball. His stay with the Dodgers was short-lived, however, as he was assigned to a Class-D League in Arkansas. In 1941, he signed with Norfolk Tars of Piedmont League, where he played a total of 72 games during his one-year stay.
Army – 1942
On October 20, 1942, Connors left the league to enlist in the United States Army to serve his country during World War II. He was based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky as an instructor in tank warfare and was officially discharged in 1946.
Between basketball and baseball
After the end of the war, Chuck Connors returned to sports, although he did not immediately return to baseball, but instead played on the Rochester Royals team of the National Basketball League (NBL), where he participated in 14 games with them until his retirement. leaving in March of that year, going back to baseball to train with the New York Yankees.
After winning the National Baseball Minor League with a small Yankees team, Connors transferred to the Brooklyn Dodgers and joined the farm club in Newport, Virginia. With this team, he gained a good reputation as a player and became one of the prime candidates to join the main Dodgers team.
In the fall of 1946, Connors returned to his other career and joined the Basketball Association of America, signing with the newly formed Boston Celtics. His role on the team wasn’t all that promising, though: “I’m sure my greatest asset to the Celtics was as an after-dinner speaker. It seems that I spoke more publicly for the team than I played that first season. They sent me for speaking engagements all over New England.”
Despite this, Connors would always be remembered as a legend of the National Basketball Association (NBA), being the first player to shatter a backboard.
Baseball – Professional League
In 1947, Connors left basketball for good after finding himself losing his physical fitness for baseball: “I had to leave the Celtics for spring training at the end of February and thought I was in great shape because I had been running on the boards all winter. But because of that, I noticed that my legs were actually much harder to get in shape. I think my baseball legs were really bothered by basketball.”
Back with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Connors was sent to play on his Alabama class AA team Mobile, slowly moving up the league chain. This led to him being assigned to play in a top Montreal club. Although his efforts were offset by winning the International League, he was not close to being a first baseman with the Dodgers. His playful and comedic nature helped him though, earning him a good image in the media that executives believed would be positive for the team.
This led him to become the first baseman for Dodger in 1949.
During one of his first matches with the team, he was struck in the mouth by a ball and taken to a hospital. This accident cost him two test matches and lost a third. Ultimately, Connors was benched by the coach’s decision.
Shortly after this event, executives made the decision to transfer Connors to the Los Angeles Angels farm team, which turned out to be in his favour, as it was in California that he met several producers, directors, and other people in the entertainment industry.
During his time playing with the Angels, Connors got a call from director Bill Grady to be tested for a small part in “Pat and Mike.” This served Connors well, as he felt he had found his next career: “I immediately said: this is my racket.
When I played with Tracy and Hepburn, I was much faster in the big leagues than I got there in baseball.”
Although he continued to play baseball, his acting achievements continued to increase, and by 1952 he had roles in several films that brought him a better income than his career in sports. In 1953 he officially left baseball, although he was always grateful for what it gave him: ‘Baseball owes me nothing. I owe it all I have and much of what I hope to have. Baseball made my entry into the film industry immeasurably easier than I could have made it on my own. I’ll be forever in debt to the greatest game in the world.”
In his acting career, Connors appeared in several films, including “Move Over Darling”, “Soylent Green” and “Flipper”. He also became a recurring TV actor, with roles on such series as “Dear Phoebe”, “Hey, Jeannie!” and “Here’s Lucy”.
However, there were two roles that cemented his Hollywood career. He first appeared as Burn Sanderson in the Disney adventure film “Old Yeller” in 1958. With this character, he won the hearts of viewers and led to his being cast in the lead role of “The Rifleman” as Lucas McCain. The western series ran for five years from 1958 to 1963 and would go on to be the most recognized acting work of his career.
Connors first married Elizabeth Riddel in 1948, whom he met at a baseball game. The couple had four sons together named Michael, Jeffrey, Stephen and Kevin, but eventually filed for divorce in 1961.
In 1963, Connors married Kamala Devi, his co-star in “Geronimo”. The couple had no children and divorced in 1973.
In 1973, Connors met actress Faith Quabius during the filming of “Soylent Green” and they married four years later. However, the union was short-lived and they filed for divorce in 1979.
Connors’ last publicly known romantic relationship was with Rose Mary Grumley, who was with him until he died.
On November 10, 1992 Connors died in a Los Angeles medical center due to complications related to lung cancer, a disease that resulted from his decades-long habit of smoking, although he gave up in 1972.
Chuck Connors had an estimated net worth of $5 million, a result of his career as an actor and as a professional basketball and baseball player.
“The Rifleman”, starring Chuck Connors, aired the last original episode on this date in 1963. The ABC series ran for five…
Chuck Connors was a man of American ethnicity. His impressive stature and defined facial features gave him a tough look. He was 1.98 tall, although his weight is unknown. His hair was dark brown and his eyes blue.
He was interested in charity and founded his own organization Chuck Connors Charitable Foundation.
Connors was a supporter of the Republican Party, developed a close friendship with Richard Nixon and campaigned for Ronald Reagan, a former colleague in the acting profession.
Connors met the leader of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, in 1973 and gifted him two Colt six-guns.
His father obtained his US citizenship in 1914 and his mother in 1930.
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