We all know about the greatest Chicago Cubs players throughout history. You have Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg and many many others who Cub fans know and love. But there is one man who was nothing less than a modern day Renaissance man who spanned a great spectrum of jobs. He was a soldier, a professional actor as well as an athlete.
You might know Chuck Connors better from his acting career where he was very successful co-starring in films like “South Sea Woman” with Burt Lancaster and “Trouble Along the Way” with John Wayne. Perhaps you remember him as Burn Sanderson in the Disney film “Old Yeller”. However, he might be best known for his role in the show “The Rifleman” as Lucas McCain; that was after he realized that he would not be able to make a living being an athlete.
After serving in World War II as a tank-warfare instructor, in 1946 Connors joined the newly formed Boston Celtics. On November 5, 1946 during warms ups of their very first game, Connors became the first professional basketball player to ever shatter a backboard. Because he was not an overall good basketball player, playing only in parts of two seasons with the Celtics, he left basketball in pursuit of a baseball career.
In 1949 Connors joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in Spring Training but only appeared in one game for them. A few years later, in 1951 Connors joined the Cubs and played first base for a mere 66 games. He was not a very good player though, which is why his Major League Baseball career only lasted for two seasons over three years.
Connors is also said to have been drafted by the Chicago Bears, though I have been unable to find the year. Although he was drafted by them, he never suited up so he cannot list that as a sport he played. However, playing in two professional sports and being drafted in a third is a massive accomplishment. Two sport athletes are rare, but they pop up from time to time; three sport athletes at the professional level are practically non-existent. While he did not officially qualify as a three sport athlete, he was on the doorstep.
To top off his amazing life, Connors also spent many years supporting and campaigning for former President of the United States of America Richard M. Nixon. At a party Nixon had hosted that Connors was invited to, he met Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev of the former Soviet Union.
While Connors was not a great professional athlete, the man lived an extraordinary life before passing away in 1992. I would like to thank my friend Tony Boylan for pointing out this extraordinary person to me!