"I’d rather be lucky than good” is a popular sports saying. “It is better to be born lucky than good-looking” is a somewhat similar saying that was popular in the late 19th century. “Better to be lucky than a good player” was the headline of a 1920 story about golf.
Former baseball player Al Demaree (1884-1962) wrote in 1926:
“There is an old adage among ball players to the effect that it is better to be lucky than good. The saying probably originated years ago just after a weak hitter had broken up a game with a ‘texas leaguer,’ or ‘handle hit.’”
“Wesley Ferrell, pitching ace of the Cleveland Indians, would rather be lucky than good” was cited in print in 1931. “I’d rather be lucky than good” has been associated with New York Yankees left-handed pitcher Lefty Gomez (1908-1989) since at least 1939, but there is no evidence that Gomez originated it.
Wikipedia: Lefty Gomez
Vernon Louis “Lefty” Gomez (November 26, 1908 – February 17, 1989) was an American professional baseball player. A left-handed pitcher, Gomez played in Major League Baseball (MLB) between 1930 and 1943 for the New York Yankees and the Washington Senators. Gomez was a five-time World Series champion with the Yankees. He was also known for his colorful personality and humor throughout his career and life.
Nicknamed “El Goofo” and “Goofy Gomez”, he was known for his sense of humor, even on the field. In one game, he came up to bat when it was slightly foggy. Bob Feller was on the mound and Gomez struck a match before stepping into the batter’s box. “What’s the big idea?” asked the umpire. “Do you think that match will help you see Feller’s fast one?” Gomez replied, “No, I’m not concerned about that. I just want to make sure he can see me!” Another time, a reporter asked the noted brushback pitcher, “Is it true that you’d throw at your own mother?” Gomez replied, “You’re damn right I would. She’s a good hitter.” Gomez also often remarked, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
31 July 1896, Iola (KS) Register, pg. 2, cols. 1-2:
We are again reminded by two instances in this immediate neighborhood last week of the old saying that it is better to be born lucky than good-looking.
20 April 1920, Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba), pg. 12, col. 7:
BETTER TO BE LUCKY THAN A GOOD PLAYER
Golfing is replacing fishing as the basis for fairy tales and tall stories; ...
14 January 1926, The Evening Repository (Canton, OH), “Joe Bush Can’t Object To His Baseball Luck” by Al Demaree (Former Giant Pitcher), pg. 8, col. 2:
There is an old adage among ball players to the effect that it is better to be lucky than good.
The saying probably originated years ago just after a weak hitter had broken up a game with a “texas leaguer,” or “handle hit.” But a a rule the better the ball player, the luckier he is. This is because he makes his own “lucky breaks” by continuously making openings for himself by his ability.
27 May 1931, The Evening Huronite (Huron, SD), pg. 9, col. 4:
Luck Fine Thing,
Cleveland Hurler Would Rather Be Lucky Than Good; Fates Plays Big Part
CLEVELAND, May 27.—(AP)—Wesley Ferrell, pitching ace of the Cleveland Indians, would rather be lucky than good.
“That’s what I figure in this pitching. I’d rather be lucky than good any day.”
7 July 1933, Daily Capitol News (Jefferson City, MO), “Golf Notes,” pg. 9, col. 5:
Jake Wallendorf proved that it is better to be lucky than good anytime by winning the prize for the shortest drive.
27 November 1939, New York (NY) Times:
“The singular (baseball player—ed.) Lefty Gomez has always subscribed to the theory that it is always better to be lucky than good.”
28 June 1940, Abilene (TX) Reporter-News (Evening Home Edition), “Newsome Finds It’s Nice to be Lucky” by Judson Bailey (AP), pg. 2, col. 6:
Big Buck “Showboat” Newsome of the Detroit Tigers one of the poisonous personality kids of the thundering thirties in the major leagues, is a fellow who will tell you it’s better to be lucky than good anytime.
9 October 1950, Evening World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Carry-Over of September Slump Top Phillie Curse?” (UP), pg. 14, col. 5:
“Maybe so,” Stengel commented, “but perhaps that only goes to prove that Lefty Gomez was right when he said he would rather be lucky than good.”
Sports Talk Critic
@TheBlueMare Pitcher Lefty Gomez who played for the Yankees in the 30s famously said he’d rather be lucky than good. Both together is best.
7:10 PM - 20 Apr 2015