Although Chuck Connors is gone, he still lives on as Lucas McCain—
Chuck Connors, the man, the star, the former major league athlete possessed enormous presence.
True, his size—6' 5", a taut, trim 200 pounds would command attention in any man's league. But the world is well stocked with big men.
Connors' success must be attributed to something more than height and weight statistics. Facially, he's square-jaw strong. But most important, it may be the steadiness and directness of his blue-eyed gaze; the immediacy of voice and the no-nonsense approach embedded in a compelling sense of fairness that puts the man across. On the other hand, there's the fun side of Connors that serves notice to those he knows and trusts to look beyond his being one helluva tough honcho. The invitation, the playful challenge is there. In Connors, this hard at 'em approach is merely a sign of friendship; a call to brotherhood. Blame it on a life of competition, of sports, whatever. But also credit the man's gamesmanship for Connors' drive, his longstanding prominence in the performing arts and his lust for achievement as a performer and on behalf of charitable, social causes.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Connors was an athlete almost from the day he could walk. He attended Adelphi Academy on an athletic scholarship, and at graduation he had no fewer than 27 college athletic scholarships to choose from.
Chuck chose Seton Hall College in South Orange, N. J., whose basketball team had a reputation for furnishing players to the professional ranks. He played baseball as well, and it was also at Seton Hall that the first wholly unrecognized inkling of his ultimate future flickered momentarily. Chuck won elocution contest reciting Vachel Lindsay's "The Congo"
Acquired the nickname Chuck as a Seton Hall College first baseman who was fond of saying "Chuck it to me!" Chuck left Seton Hall to sign on as a first baseman with the New York Yankee organization, This lasted only one season before the army claimed him and eventually assigned him to the I. S. Military Academy at West Point as a non-commissioned instructor in tank warfare. During his tour of duty Chuck moonlighted as a professional basketball player at night, a way of life which left him perhaps the most exhausted man ever to depart army services.
After the war and now with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chuck, tired of playing in the minors, asked to be sold to the Chicago Cubs—where he played three months before he was shipped off to still another minor league club, the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. This proved, however, to be the luckiest move Connors made since he took up poetic elocution at Seton Hall. Los Angeles was the home of Hollywood; many Hollywood celebrities made a practice of coming out to the ball games, and Connors was that baseball rarity—a man who could play the clown and still hit .321 and 23 home runs in only half a season.
"Handling a rifle or a baseball bat takes coordination and practice, that's all." ~Chuck Connors
A huge, overgrown puppy in both attitude and appearance (he once ran around the bases backwards after hitting a home run), he was a natural to catch the eye of the essentially fun-loving Hollywood people. It would be fun, they all agreed, to give this big kid a small part here and there. The publicity wouldn't hurt either.
What they hadn't quite reckoned with was the blotting-paper quality of the big kid's inquisitive mind. Whenever he got on a TV or movie set, Connors would ask questions, picked brains, borrowed books, button-holed everybody who could help teach him what the film and television business was all about. Before anyone quite realized what was happening, the big gangling minor league home run hitter had turned into a knowledgeable and proficient actor.
ltimately, director William Wyler took a calculated risk and gave Connors the role of a conniving heavy in "The Big Country." When several movie columnists suggested in print that Chuck deserved Oscar consideration as a supporting actor, Connors took a deep breath, turned his back on a baseball career, and became a full-time working actor. He had parts in more than 65 TV shows before the producers of "The Rifleman" made the decision that turned him into a star. It also turned him into a businessman.
Throughout his career Chuck Connors has been recognized for his many fine performances in motion pictures, television, and on the stage. His name has become synonymous with the outstanding roles he has created in such classic series' as "Branded," "Arrest and Trial," and "The Rifleman," to list but a few, and his gripping performance in the 1976 NBC mini-series, "Roots" earned him an Emmy Award nomination. Throughout his prolific career Chuck's mass of acting talent has captured the imagination of audiences worldwide, and his contributions as an actor have been shared and enjoyed by people everywhere.
But there are other accomplishments, quieter and more personal contributions, that Chuck has given his fellow man.
For several years, Connors lent his efforts helping the children from the Angel View Crippled Children's Foundation located in Desert Hot Springs, California. Through his efforts the Chuck Connors Invitational Golf Tournament has raised over $400,000.00, and all the proceeds have gone to Angel View.
Chuck Connors has also given freely of his time and talents to actively support The United Way cause in the United States, and has participated in film projects for the various United Way programs both here and abroad.
Connors was a member of the Sheriff's Advisory Board of Orange County, California, and in 1981 actively participated in their Project 999 diner to benefit police officers wounded in the line of duty.
Chuck's first love was baseball. He'd rather have been a major league baseball player than an actor, and he really loved the game.
Chuck received a star on Hollywood's "Walk of Fame" on July 18, 1984.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1991.
"The Rifleman" was nominated for an Emmy as the Best Western Series for 1958-59
``Rifleman" Pioneer in Board Bashing. . . . .'
Long before slam dunks or Darryl Dawkins, a sharpshooter named Kevin ``Chuck'' Connors became the first NBA player to shatter a backboard - with a two-handed set shot (1946).
Before he went on to fame as a baseball player and TV actor on ``The Rifleman,'' Connors was the starting center for the first Boston Celtics team.
It was Nov. 5, 1946, and 4,329 fans had paid up to $2.75 a ticket for the first game of the new NBA.
Former NBA player Chuck Connors Person was nicknamed after Chuck because his mother enjoyed the television show,