Chuck Connors was critical of actors portraying baseball players in TV and film

In the Major Leagues, he was known as "that actor," but in the acting world, he was known as "that ballplayer."

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Before Chuck Connors rode around on a horse for a living, he had a much different career lined up for himself — a baseball career, of all things. In 1941, Connors played for the Brooklyn Dodgers; in 1951, he played for the Chicago Cubs.

Connors was a first baseman before he was Lucas McCain on The Rifleman for five seasons. In fact, playing baseball helped inspire Connors to start acting. He knew how to put on a show, whether on the diamond or our TV screens.

With his knowledge of acting and baseball under his Rifleman cowboy hat, Connors became highly critical of baseball scenes in TV and film.

"Take me out to the ball game... but not to a baseball game in a motion picture," Connors said in a 1963 interview with The Courier. "Those actors who have starred in baseball films didn't even wear the uniforms right. They didn't look like baseball players."

The Babe Ruth Story, starring William Bendix as Babe Ruth, was the target for most of Connors critiques. 

"And if you try to play a game in a movie, you're crazy," Connors said. "No matter how you film it, it looks phony compared with the real games."

Connors only hit two home runs during his career in the MLB. However, one of those home runs was against Sal "The Barber" Maglie of the New York Giants.

The Everett Collection

Baseball isn't the only sport Connors pursued. In 1947, Connors played for NBA's Boston Celtics and admitted he was a much better baseball player.

"I couldn't dunk the ball," Connors said in a 1985 interview with The State.

He only averaged four points per game, which is not nearly as good of a shooting percentage as his Rifleman character.

Acting came easy for Connors, who said he learned it from baseball and by playing in front of a live audience. As an ex-baseball player, Connors said he would have liked to be "the first actor to look right in a baseball uniform."

"You've got to entertain the fans," Connors said. "Like the time I hit a pop fly to right field and ran down to third base. It was the eighth inning, there were two outs and the game was really over. After I hit the ball, I ran down to third and slid in. I'm out, but I'm no more out than if I had ran to first."

Connors said he never regretted leaving baseball to become an actor; he just needed to figure out how to balance the two identities.

"As a ballplayer, I was a good minor leaguer," Connors said. "As an actor, I'm major league. If I can get the other actors to accept me as such."

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HeleneNeiman 10 months ago
I met Babe Ruth's Grand daughter a few years ago, and I asked her " of all the actors who have portrayed your Grandfather, which one did you feel played him the most realistically", and she replied " Stephen Lang "
FloridaTopCat 11 months ago
Wonder what he would have said about "Major League"? Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger? Don't forget Bob Uecker, a real Play-by-play voice who called the games for the movie!
Runeshaper 12 months ago
That’s very interesting 🧐!
327053 12 months ago
He did amazing playing a villain in The Big Country opposite Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston.
CaptainDunsel 12 months ago
"As a ballplayer, I was a good minor leaguer," Connors said. "As an actor, I'm major league. If I can get the other actors to accept me as such."
Well...(Language warning)
Bapa1 12 months ago
Did he like Gary Cooper in 'Pride of The Yankees'? I wonder if he would have liked John Goodman in 'The Babe'.
DocForbin 12 months ago
MAD Magazine really roasted Conners' previous profession as a baseball player in their satire "The Rifle, Man!" I always liked the opening page of that satire which spoofed the show's opening in which Lucas shoots off his rifle and practically wipes out the camera crew.
DocForbin DocForbin 12 months ago
You can read the issue that has that satire here:
Andybandit 12 months ago
That was good that Chuck Connors played professional baseball, and was an actor.
Pacificsun 12 months ago
The Rifleman
Episode: The Apprentice Sheriff
madvincent Pacificsun 12 months ago
Robert Vaughn............
madvincent Pacificsun 12 months ago
"the retired gun" ep 17 with baseball player turned gunslinger Duke Snider
SoCal72 madvincent 12 months ago
Don't forget season 4 ep 14 "Skull" starring Don Drysdale
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