New York Giants second baseman “Laughing” Larry Doyle (1886-1974) is credited with originating the saying “It’s great to be young and a (New York) Giant.” Some baseball scholars believe that the quotation was recorded by Damon Runyon in 1911, but Heywood Broun (see 1935 citation, below) wrote that the date was 1915.
New York Yankees pitcher Waite Hoyt (1899-1984) is usually credited with the more popular variant: “It’s great to be young and a (New York) Yankee.” It’s not certain when Hoyt made the remark. A Heywood Broun novel, The Sun Field (1923), includes the line “It’s great to be young and a Yankee.”
Wikipedia: Larry Doyle (baseball)
Lawrence Joseph Doyle (July 31, 1886 - March 1, 1974), nicknamed “Laughing Larry,” was an American second baseman in Major League Baseball from 1907 to 1920 who played almost his entire career for the New York Giants. The National League’s outstanding second baseman during the 1910s, he was awarded the 1912 Chalmers Award as the league’s best player, and won the 1915 batting title with a .320 average. The team captain and top everyday star on three consecutive pennant winners (1911-13), his .408 career slugging average was the top mark by an NL second baseman when he retired, as were his career totals in hits (1887), doubles (299), triples (123), total bases (2654) and extra base hits (496). He ended his career among the major league leaders in career games (5th, 1730), putouts (9th, 3635), assists (9th, 4654), total chances (9th, 8732) and double plays (5th, 694) at second base, and set Giants franchise records for career games, at bats and doubles, each of which was broken by Bill Terry.
He began 1916 with a .278 average before being traded to the Chicago Cubs in late August, a painful move for the fiercely loyal player who had famously said in 1911 that it was “great to be young and a Giant.”
The Baseball Biography Project
by R. J. Lesch
A left-handed hitter with power and speed who batted .290 over the course of 14 seasons in the National League, “Laughing Larry” Doyle carried an unusually potent bat for a Deadball Era second baseman, but he’s even more well-known today for his kindly nature and sunny disposition. “It’s great to be young and a New York Giant,” he famously remarked to Damon Runyon in 1911, when he helped his team to its first of three consecutive NL pennants. Popular with his teammates as well as manager John McGraw, Doyle was the Giants field captain for more than five years, filling in for McGraw when he was ejected or serving a suspension. “Doyle is easily the best ball player on the Giants, a hustling, aggressive, McGraw style of player, full of nerve, grit and true courage,” wrote Hugh Fullerton in 1912. “I think he is gamer than his manager, and in some respects a better baseball general.”
Wikipedia: Waite Hoyt
Waite Charles Hoyt (September 9, 1899 – August 25, 1984) was an American right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball, one of the dominant pitchers of the 1920s, and the winningest pitcher for the New York Yankees during that decade. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
Hoyt was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended Erasmus Hall High School. Despite being a Dodgers fan he was signed to a professional contract by New York Giants manager John McGraw when he was but 15. Because of his extreme youth, he was immediately nicknamed “The Schoolboy Wonder.” But Hoyt would not achieve his greatest success as a Giant.
After a brief stint with the Giants, McGraw sent the young pitcher to the minors for seasoning. It wasn’t long before he reappeared in the majors, this time with the Boston Red Sox. His performance there attracted the attention of the Yankees, who acquired him in 1920. In his first season as a Yankee, 1921, he rose to instant stardom, winning 19 games and pitching three complete games in the World Series without allowing an earned run — over his career, he would win six American League pennants with the Yankees and one with the Philadelphia Athletics. In his finest years with the Yankees, 1927 and 1928, Hoyt would post records of 22 wins and 7 losses with a 2.64 ERA and 23 wins and 7 losses with a 3.36 ERA. During his 21 year career, he won ten or more games twelve times, eleven of them consecutively. Hoyt pitched for 8 years after leaving the Yankees in 1930, but did not consistently display similar levels of pitching dominance.
Hoyt finished his career with a win-loss record of 237–182 and an ERA of 3.59. By the time he retired in 1938, he was the winningest pitcher in World Series history (his World Series record with the Yankees and A’s is 6 wins and 4 losses).
The Sun Field
By Heywood Broun
New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
For instance, she saw almost nothing of the other players on the team. She liked young Grasty, the little righthander from the coast. He was the man who said to her on the train, “It’s great to be young and a Yankee.”
11 March 1928, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, “Macon will have balanced team” by Frank (Buc) O’Neill, pg. A3, col. 6:
There’s a young recruit in the camp of the Giants who looks at Fred Lindstrom, Jimmy Welsh and Mel Ott and sighs: “Gee, it’s great to be young and a Giant.”
Google News Archive
30 December 1935, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, “It Seems to me” by Heywood Broun, pg. 17, col. 1:
In 1915 I came here (New Orleans—ed.) with John McGraw and the New York Giants. That was the season when Larry Doyle said, “It’s great to be young and a Giant.” And it wasn’t so bad to be a mere 27 and baseball writer for the New York Tribune.
9 June 1942, New York (NY) Times, “Sports of the Times” by Arthur Daley, pg. 29:
But now he exults as Waite Hoyt did when he delivered that memorable line: “It’s great being young and a Yankee.”
Lou Gehrig: a quiet hero
By Frank Graham
New York, NY: Editions for the Armed Services
Now Lou must have said to himself over and over again, in one way or another, that it was great to be young and a Yankee.
20 August 1948, New York (NY) Times, “Sports of the Times” by Arthur Daley, pg. 21:
it was Hoyt, of course, who once jubilantly proclaimed: “It’s great to be young and a Yankee.”
11 September 1951, New York (NY) Times, “Sports of the Times” by Arthur Daley, pg. 37:
“It’s great to be young and a Giant,” said Larry Doyle. But when John McGraw departed, the discovery was made that the tradition and the catch-phrase had gone elsewhere.
“It’s great to be young and a Yankee,” paraphrased Waite Hoyt and that’s the line which has stuck.
11 June 1979, New York (NY) Times, “Question Box” by S. lee Kramer, pg. C8:
QUESTION: Ever since I first heard the expression “It’s great to be young and a Yankee,” I have naturally assumed that the sentiment was originally voiced by some New York Yankee player. Now a friend of mine tells me that the original expression was actually “It’s great to be young and a Giant,” that it was voiced by a member of the old New York Giants. Who is right?
Your friend, by all accounts. The remark is attributed to Lawrence Joseph (Laughing Larry) Doyle, a Giant second baseman from 1907 to 1920, with time out for service with the Chicago Cubs for part of 1916 and all of 1917. Doyle was just turning 21 years of age when he started playing for the Giants, who were managed then by John McGraw and who, in the years Doyle played for them, won the National League pennant three times.