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."
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.
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."