If they made a Mount Rushmore of TV stars from the medium’s first 75 years, Tom Selleck would be one of the faces etched in stone. From commercials in the 1960s, to primetime guest spots in the 1970s, Magnum, P.I. in the 1980s, and Friends, Jesse Stone, and Blue Bloods ever since, Selleck has remained busy and beloved for half a century.
His mix of matinee idol looks and self-deprecating “regular guy” approachability keeps him equally popular with male and female viewers. And he’s the rare TV star who has successfully crossed over to film, with hits like 3 Men And A Baby (1987) as well as Western-themed miniseries and movies like Last Stand at Saber River (1987), Monte Walsh (2003), and more.
But it’s the long-running Magnum, P.I. and Blue Bloods for which he’s best-known and will likely be best-remembered. “This kind of success is rare; twice, it’s a gift,” Selleck told CBS This Morning in 2017. “It takes a certain amount of perseverance.”
Perseverance is an understatement. Selleck is currently starring in the ninth season of Blue Bloods and will soon begin his tenth turn as Jesse Stone, an aging cop who’s irresistible to the ladies — just like the actor who portrays him. Here are some fun facts about the ageless icon.

1. Why the Tigers hat?

Thomas Magnum wears a Tigers cap because Tom Selleck is a Detroit native. He was born in the Motor City in 1945 and lived there until age four, when his family moved to Sherman Oaks, California. Tom is the second of four children born to Martha and Robert Selleck, a homemaker and real estate agent. A picture of Selleck’s real life family sat on Thomas Magnum’s bedside table on TV.

2. He could have been a pro athlete.

In 1962, the 6’4″ Selleck was awarded a basketball scholarship to the University of Southern California. Tom also played baseball and was told by Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle that he had “major league potential.” He chose to pursue performing instead, dropping out of USC to sign a contract with 20th Century Fox. But Selleck eventually got his shot as a ballplayer. In 1991, he spent three weeks as a member of the Tigers in spring training, preparing for him role in Mr. Baseball (1992).

3. He made his TV debut on a game show.

Selleck may be famous for his mustache, but he was a clean-shaven college kid in his first TV appearance. He made his TV debut at age 20 on ABC’s The Dating Game in 1965 — and lost. He competed again two years later — and lost again! Somewhere, there are two women in their 70s wondering what they were thinking.

4. His first TV role was on a Western — with Sam Elliott.

Selleck appeared in a commercial for Safeguard (with Teri Garr) and other brands, but his first TV acting role was as an ornery barfly on the CBS Western series Lancer in January of 1969. Sam Elliott also appeared in that episode, though the two future stars didn’t have any scenes together. They reunited ten years later, this time as brothers, for the NBC miniseries The Sacketts. Selleck and Elliott also co-starred, again as brothers, in the TV movie The Shadow Riders in 1982.

5. Magnum P.I. was born on The Rockford Files.

In October of 1978 33-year-old Selleck appeared on The Rockford Files as Lance White, a handsome private investigator who’s a thorn in the side of curmudgeonly Jim Rockford (James Garner). That episode found Jim and Lance sharing an assignment for a wealthy client (Bill Quinn, best known as blind Mr. Van R. on All In The Family). Lance and Rockford teamed up again in 1979 — on an episode that featured Selleck’s future Magnum, P.I. co-star Larry Manetti! A year later, Rockford producers Universal Television gave Selleck his own show. So, you can make a strong argument that Magnum, P.I. is an unofficial spin-off of The Rockford Files. (Garner can be seen on Bret Maverick, Sundays on getTV.)

6. Selleck almost starred in Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

After an audition in 1980, Tom was offered the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark by director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas. There was only one problem: he was about to begin Magnum, P.I. “They held the offer for a month, but the more they talked to the network (CBS), the more the network said no,” Selleck told David Letterman in 2016. He got a second chance (sort of) to play Indy when Magnum P.I. did a Raiders parody episode in 1988 — complete with leather jacket, fedora, whip, and snakes!

7. He met his wife on a movie.

While filming the World War II-set film Lassiter in England in 1983, Selleck met and began courting actress and dancer Jillie Mack. The two married in 1987 — in a ceremony that was kept hidden from the press for nearly a month. Their daughter Hannah was born in 1988. (Tom also has an adopted son from a previous marriage.)

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