Chuck Connors was born Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors on April 10, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York. He picked up the name Chuck from his days as a first baseman when he would tell the other players to “chuck it to me”.
The Brooklyn Dodgers signed Connors in 1940 but he only played in one major league game for the Dodgers in 1949 and was then traded to the Chicago Cubs where he played in 66 games in 1951.
He batted .239 for the Cubs in 1951 and had an OBP of .282 slugged .303. He would never play in another major league game after the 1951 season.
Connors played minor league baseball for nine seasons hitting for a respectable .289 average. He hit 108 home runs during his minor league career. His best season was 1949 when he hit 20 home runs and drove in 108 runs and hit .319 for the Montreal Royals.
Connors made his big screen debut in 1952 in Pat and Mike which starred Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. He continued to appear in movies and television till he signed to star in The Rifleman.
He beat out 40 actors for the role of Lucas McCain in The Rifleman. Johnny Crawford played the role of his son. He would play baseball sometimes with Connors but said it was hard to find the ball after Connors hit it.
It was the singular achievement of his career but stayed busy after the show ended making appearances in numerous movies and television shows.
The show was No.4 in the ratings during the first year. Connors wrote four of The Rifleman episodes.
Leonid Brezhnev made a trip to the United States and asked only to meet one person and that person was Chuck Connors. There was only one U.S. television show allowed on Russian television and it was The Rifleman which was Brezhev’s favorite show.
This quote by Connors from Life.com shows that Connors also liked Brezhnev:
Chuck who said in 1973: The President gave me about two dozen presidential tie clips and ladies’ pins, with instructions to spread them around when I thought it appropriate, Brezhnev will get more than a tie clip. I’ve ordered two engraved Colt revolvers for the General Secretary, Brezhnev is quite a western buff. (Source: Life.com)
Connors was a heavy smoker and he died from pneumonia due to lung cancer on November 10, 1971 in Los Angeles. Johnny Crawford was one of those who spoke at the funeral.
Ourchuckconnors.com has manyphotos and statements by those who knew Chuck: