Tom Selleck’s Height Helped Make Him A Great Athlete

By Hugh Scott |

Tom Selleck Smiling.

(Getty Images)

At 6-foot-4, Tom Selleck has always cut a dashing figure. Before the first scene of Magnum, P.I. was ever shot — a shot, it should be added, featuring a shirtless Selleck — the mustachioed hunk attended the University of Southern California on a basketball scholarship. He’s also a formidable volleyball player and supporter. His athletic prowess was often used in the hit ’80s TV in which he starred.

Sports were always a big part of Tom Selleck’s life

Selleck was born in Michigan, which is another bit of his personal life used in Magnum, P.I. since Thomas Magnum was rarely seen without his trademark Detroit Tigers hat. His family moved to southern California where Selleck played sports as a kid and after a couple of years at community college, he transferred to USC on a basketball scholarship. Though he only played in a handful of games for the Trojans, it was at USC that his other career would start to take shape.

Soon, it was the acting bug that took over

Screenshot from Magnum P.I. of Tom Selleck playing basketball

Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum on Magnum, P.I.

As a senior, Tom Selleck appeared on The Dating Game and with that, his fledgling career was off. He dropped out of school and pursued showbiz with gusto. After supporting himself for years as with bit parts and modeling gigs, he landed the plum role of Magnum. It was on Magnum, P. I. that he often worked in athletics as part of the character. Swimming, basketball, beach volleyball, tennis, canoeing, and, of course, that Tigers cap were all staples of the show.

Selleck’s height made him a great volleyball player

Outside the show, Tom Selleck’s height made him a great volleyball player, too. He played for an amateur traveling team in Honolulu, Outrigger Canoe Club, as was highlighted in a fantastic vintage news report from 1983 when the team played in San Diego. The team twice won the over-35 “Masters” National Championships. One teammate said of Selleck in a 2011 issue of Volleyball USA magazine, “Tom was a great teammate, appreciative of being included with such a talented and experienced group, practicing and playing hard when his Magnum schedule permitted.”

Today, his characters aren’t quite as athletic

The 75-year-old actor’s character on Blue Bloods, Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, is more likely to spend his leisure time fishing than spiking volleyballs, but Tom Selleck is still physically fit. Selleck is also an avid sports fans, especially of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. His love of hockey is something the writers have occasionally slipped into Blue Bloods, just like how sports were always a part of Magnum’s character.

His height didn’t help as much with baseball

Of course, there is also the classic film Mr. Baseball, which starred Selleck as an American baseball player traded to a Japanese team. Fittingly, the movie ends with Selleck’s character coaching, who else, the Detroit Tigers. Selleck also played baseball of course, but it was sports like volleyball and basketball where he was able to use his tall frame to gain an advantage, which is where he really excelled.