The 6’7″ Connors played pro basketball with the Boston Celtics after WWII before concentrating on baseball. In the Brooklyn organization, he earned more applause for his spring training recitations of “Casey at the Bat” than for his hitting. He pinch-hit once for the Dodgers in 1949. The Cubs acquired him in 1951 and sent him to Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League where he hit .321. A bit part in the Spencer Tracy – Katharine Hepburn movie “Pat and Mike” after the 1952 season convinced him to make acting his full-time profession. In 1957 he landed the lead in the TV western series “The Rifleman,” which aired through 1962. His second western series, “Branded,” aired 1964-65. He has appeared in numerous movies and television dramas since, and won critical acclaim in the role of a slave owner in the television mini-series “Roots” (1977).