Texas politician Jim Hightower told the Democratic National Convention at Atlanta, Georgia, on July 19, 1988, about the Republican presidential candidate, George H. W. Bush:
“He is a man who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”
The baseball idiom describes a person who was born into wealth and advantage, but who claims that he (or she) earned it. Hightower popularized the saying, but he didn’t coin it.
“A genius is one who seems a wonder because he was born on third base” is from 1934. “Born on third base and thinks he hit a triple” was said about an oil heir in 1983. Football coach Barry Switzer said in 1986, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” In January 1988—about six months before Hightower’s speech—the saying was featured on a newspaper’s puzzle page.
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
U.S. politician, 1943-
[Of George H. W. Bush’s inherited wealth:] “He is a man who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”
Speech at Democratic National Convention, Atlanta, Ga., 19 July 1988. “Born on third base and thinks he hit a triple” was used earlier (about another oil heir) in Fortune, 30 May 1983.
12 May 1934, Hammond (IN) Times, pg. 4, col. 2:
A genius is one who seems a wonder because he was born on third base.
17 September 1935, Ironwood (MI) Daily Globe, pg. 4, col. 2:
Speaking of the Brain Trust, Charles F. Thomas of Chicago knows his baseball when he says: “That the professors and others so influential in framing national legislation are mostly men who were born on third base, and the burdens they are putting upon the people are borne by those of us who were born at bat with two strikes on us.”
13 October 1940, Paris (TX) News, “Homer Price in Marshall News-Messenger,” pg. 4, col. 2:
A Fort Worth utility man said at a noonday luncheon club in that city: “Americans have an increasing tendency toward laziness. We want to be born on third base. If that can’t happen, we want to walk to first, steal second, and be sacrificed to third. This condition,” he added, “causes many people to prey on their associates during the week.”
13 December 1986, Marietta (GA) Daily Journal, pg. 8C, col. 1:
Hard times made
Switzer a winner
By Tom Shatel
Kansas City Star and Times
“There are many people who don’t know what real pressure is. Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”
-- Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer.
9 January 1988, Brandon (Manitoba) Sun, ‘Scram-lets” edited by Clay R. Pollan, People/Games, pg. 16, col. 3:
Granny says that some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a ----.
Google News Archive
20 July 1988, Southeastern Missourian (Cape Girardeau, MO), pg. 11A, col. 2:
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower told the delegates (at the Democratic National Convention—ed.) that Bush was a “toothache of a man” who doesn’t care about the problems of anyone but the rich.
“George has always been in another world. His is an upper-class world in which wealth is given to you at birth,” Hightower said. “He is a man who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”
September 25, 1989
It’s unlikely that Ryan will agree, but if he does, he will have no trouble getting the backing of club owner George W. Bush. The Democrat incumbent, Jim Hightower, once called Bush’s father “a toothache” and added, “He is a man who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”
New York (NY) Times
Born on Third Base
Published: May 04, 1997
To the Editor:
Mr. Rodgers also credits C.E.O.’s like Jack Welch and Bill Gates with creating a quarter-trillion dollars’ worth of wealth for their shareholders. As if they’d done it all with their own hands. Like so many other rich people, they were born on third base—and Mr. Rodgers thinks they hit triples.
JOHN WINSTON BUSH
Brooklyn, April 29, 1997
two feet thick
Who first said “Born on third, thinks he got a triple”?
by John Reynolds , Jessica Letkemann on September 1, 2004
Barry Switzer, the successful head football coach at the University of Oklahoma and for the Dallas Cowboys in the 70s, 80s, and 90′s, was practically a sound byte machine. Relevance? A December 1986 Chicago Tribune article opens with a quote from Switzer: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”