9 insanely true facts about Chuck Connors
The actor was a favorite of a famous Soviet leader.
Image: The Everett Collection
Our favorite characters on classic Westerns shows were larger than life. They talked tough, carried nifty guns and handled the bad guys with ease.
But when it comes to Chuck Connor, he actually is larger than life. The 6-foot-6 actor was a jack of all trades. He played three professional sports, acted in a variety of roles and dabbled in diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
In honor of Connors' birthday, we're going through a few reasons as to why we should all remember Hollywood's true Renaissance man.
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He didn't like his name.
Born Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors, the actor and athlete tried out the names "Lefty" and "Stretch" before becoming known as Chuck.
Image: Gold Key Comics
He chose the name "Chuck" because of baseball.
Connors ended up choosing the name "Chuck" because when he played first base in baseball, he would yell to the pitcher, "Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!"
Images: 1952 Topps Baseball Cards
He broke records while playing basketball.
Although Connors was a fan of baseball, he joined the Boston Celtics of the newly formed Basketball Association of America after World War II. Connors became the first player to break a backboard, shattering the glass with a simple shot during the warm up of the first home game. (The glass backboard wasn't installed properly.)
He also played professional baseball.
Connors left the Celtics to join the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. He only played one game with the team, but joined the Chicago Cubs in 1951 as the team's first baseman.
Image: Associated Press
He almost played pro football, too!
Connors was later drafted by the Chicago Bears of the NFL. He ultimately never played for the team, but we think playing for two out of three professional sports leagues isn't too bad!
He was first a character actor.
After jumping from sport to sport, Connors perhaps realized he wasn't cut out to be a professional athlete. Before landing the lead on The Rifleman in 1959, Connors was a character actor who appeared in more than 50 film and TV roles.
He was friends with his young costar.
Johnny Crawford, who played Lucas McCain's son on The Rifleman, says Connors loved to play baseball with him during breaks and between scenes. "He always insisted on being first up at bat," Crawford said in 2012. "We couldn't find the ball, and that would be the end of that."
The Soviet Union was fond of him.
When Connors went to the White House in 1973 to meet Leonid Brezhnev, he gave the Soviet leader two Colt .45 six-shooters and a cowboy hat. According to The New York Times, Brezhnev, a fan of Westerns, was so overjoyed by the gift that he picked up the 6-foot-6 actor and lifted him into the air.
He appeared in 'Roots.'
Was there anyone who didn't appear in this acclaimed 1977 miniseries? In Roots, Connors played slave owner Tom Moore. Connor earned an Emmy nomination for the role.
Image: Warner Bros.