How exactly did ''Chuck'' Connors get his nickname? It's complicated.
The Rifleman actor, born Kevin, has contrasting origin stories behind his more famous first name!
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We can admit when we are wrong. Well, mislead. Okay, maybe just confused.
In the past, we have told you that Chuck Connors, star of The Rifleman, earned his nickname on the baseball diamond.
Wait, let's back up. Did you know "Chuck" was not his real name? He was born Kevin Connors. Did you know he played pro baseball? Yep. For the Dodgers and Cubs (and in the minors for Montreal).
While it is true that Connors took the name "Chuck" while he was playing ball, the specific origin behind the nickname is, well, contested.
As we reported, Connors ended up choosing the name "Chuck" because when he played first base at Seton Hall University, he would yell to the pitcher, "Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!" The source of this explanation is none other than his younger sister, Gloria, who told that tale in a 1997 biography of her brother. But that tale might be as tall as 6' 6" Chuck himself.
While researching Chuck's baseball career, we came across a juicy, saucy piece on the athlete from 1949. Baseball writer Harold C. Burr gave a colorful profile of Connors as the slugger was making the leap from the minors to the big time for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Even then, the article paints Connors as an entertainer, long before he entertained the idea of becoming an actor. The headline itself described the jock as a "revival of Vaudeville" due to his silly nature on the field. Burr calls him a "comedian of the game," in fact.
The journalist pondered if Connors was too frolicsome for the Big Leagues. "He treats the whole serious business of being a Dodger too lightly," Burr grumbled.
Oh, throughout the article, Burr calls him "Kevin." And that brings us to the fascinating bit.
"The players call him Chuck, after the old Bowery character of the same name," Burr explains. "But this Chuck Connors doesn't go in for the blue jacket with the pearl buttons and the derby hat that made the original famous."
The "original" referred to here is "Chuck" from The Bowery Boys, the fictional gang of tough New York guys who became a film franchise in the 1940s. David Gorcey portrayed Chuck. That's him up top in 1948's Smugglers' Cove.
Considering the pre-fame explanation of this nickname, we are inclined to believe the Bowery Boys link. Gloria's story sounds more like, well, a fun myth. Sorry, sis.
Wait, what did Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors himself say? How did Chuck get the name Chuck?
"I gave it to myself," Connors told the New York Daily News in 1949. "I like it."
Whatever the case, the fact is "Chuck" Connors took several years to get used to his new name.
In a 1961 "Short Circuits" gossip column, there was a great anecdote:
There was a great deal of confusion on The Rifleman set recently when Joe Lewis, directing "The Shattered Idol," called out "Kevin!" Both guest star Kevin McCarthy and Chuck Connors looked around.
We wonder if he would have turned his head for "Aloysius".