‘The Rifleman’: How Did Star Chuck Connors Get His Nickname?

by Joe Rutland
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Everyone knows “The Rifleman” star Chuck Connors by that name. It must be his real name. Well, his last name is his but what about Chuck?

Apparently, Chuck was born on April 10, 1921, as Kevin Connors. His full birth name is Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors. Confused? Let’s work on sorting this out.

Connors enlisted in 1942 to join the United States Army, according to an article from the Society of American Baseball Research. He didn’t see action overseas as Connors stayed stateside to be a tank instructor. Yet it was while he was in the Army that Connors reportedly picked up the “Chuck” nickname.

‘The Rifleman’ Star Picks Up Chuck Nickname In Baseball Circles

This story, though, goes against one his sister Gloria shared in a 1997 biography about “The Rifleman” star and her brother. She wrote that the nickname appeared while Connors was a first baseman at Seton Hall University. Connors, according to her story, was fond of saying, “Chuck it to me, baby. Chuck it to me!”

One other story, according to an article from MeTV, is that he gets called Chuck after a character from The Bowery Boys, a popular 1940s film series.

Connors himself gives what might just be the final word on this nickname issue. In an interview in the 1980s, he says, “They called me Chuck when I started playing baseball because they thought Kevin was effeminate.” By the way, Connors plays some pro basketball with the Boston Celtics. He was an all-around athlete, for sure.

Connors Also Held Leading Actor Roles In Other TV Series

Classic TV fans are still watching Connors play Lucas McCain in “The Rifleman” and have been for decades. That show, which ran five seasons on ABC, made the one-time baseball and basketball athlete into a TV star. Here’s a sports tidbit for you, too. He is just one of 13 athletes to play in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

Besides “The Rifleman,” Connors also was the lead actor in other TV series like “Branded,” “Arrest and Trial,” and “Cowboy in Africa.” None of these shows, though, would reach the level of popularity Connors hit as Lucas McCain carrying around his Winchester 44-40.

But the show almost didn’t last five seasons. In 1961, the ABC executives moved the show from its original day and time. Fans couldn’t find it and ratings started going down. Connors, though, took matters into his own hands to save “The Rifleman” from cancellation. He starts canvassing door-to-door and asks viewers what can be done to improve the show.

The results lead Connors to find out people love the show. People did not want to see McCain, a single father raising his son Mark [Johnny Crawford], get married. He never did.

Connors died on Nov. 10, 1992, at 71 years old from lung cancer.

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