"Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you” means the same thing as “sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.” Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe supposedly said the line after being taken out of a baseball game some time in the 1950s, but the saying has not been found cited in print from the 1950s.
“One day you eat the bear, one day the bear eats you” was said by automobile racing driver Roger Penske in March 1963. “In drag racing, there Is saying ‘sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you,’ which otherwise means you win a few close ones and you lose a few close ones” was cited in January 1964.
Wikipedia: Preacher Roe
Elwin Charles Roe (February 26, 1916 – November 9, 2008), known as Preacher Roe, was a Major League Baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals (1938), Pittsburgh Pirates (1944–1947), and Brooklyn Dodgers (1948–1954).
Roe’s overall career statistics were hurt by the fact that he was away from baseball during World War II and that for two of the years he pitched for the Pirates they were among the worst teams in the National League. Contrasting the fielding of the Dodgers and the Pirates, he once said that a pitcher should pay to pitch for the Dodgers, whereas the Pirates’ second baseman and shortstop were like goalposts with the ball bouncing between them. After being taken out of a game in the second inning, Roe commented that, “Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.”
Originally Posted: March 25, 1963
What Makes Roger Race
Whether he is seated expressionless behind the wheel of a racing car or on the road selling aluminum, Roger Penske is obsessed with a passion to go the fastest, to be the best, to get on top
BY GILBERT ROGIN
“You got to capitalize on this thing while you can. One day you eat the bear, one day the bear eats you. I’ll get out of racing when it becomes too great a liability to the company, when I’m worth something. Down deep I’m trying to exploit this thing as much as I can. Why shouldn’t I? I can get as vicious as the next guy. I’ve been giving away too much until this past year. I want to make as much money as I can. I’ll do anything for a buck.”
30 January 1964, Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA), “Town Crier” by Doug Ives, pg. C-2, col. 1:
IN DRAG racing, there Is saying “sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you,” which otherwise means you win a few close ones and you lose a few close ones.
28 March 1966, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), “Wauwatosa Girl Says Winning of Junior Miss Title IS ‘Dream’” by Jerry Estill (AP), sec. 1, pg. 9, col. 1:
One of the telegrams was from her brother, Terry, a student at Notre Dame University, warning: “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.”
Google News Archive
9 April 1966, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “Diane’s Diary: Sometimes You Eat the Bear” (Diane Wilkins of Wauwatosa), pt. 1, pg. 14, col. 1:
THE MOST EXCITING thing happened...Terry came home!! He’s my brother, you know...the one who’s the sophomore premed student at Notre Dame.
I now know what the telegram he sent me in Mobile really meant. It’s pretty neat, really...and it sure gives me something to think about. It read, “Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.”
3 May 1969, Anniston (AL) Star, “We Interrupt This Column” (editorial), pg. 8, col. 1:
Dear Cody, As you like to tell us during a rough day in the newsroom, “Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.”
11 July 1970, Garden City (KS) Telegram, “The Distaff Side” by D. H., pg. 4, col. 1:
“That’s the way it goes. Some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you.”
OCLC WorldCat record
Some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you
Author: Ian Matthews
Publisher: New York City : Elektra, 1974.
Edition/Format: Music LP : Rock music : English
The Internet Movie Database
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Stranger: Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.