Posted by R on June 22, 2006
Please add to "lightning in a bottle thread"
A sporting connection is appropriate; the source appears to be baseball. I put in evidence a report in the Nevada State Journal for 8 October 1941, which said: The Yanks were the dominant team throughout, outhitting, outfielding, outpitching and outmaneuvering the Dodgers. Brooklyn was not outgamed but the Dodgers, to use Lippy Leo Durocher's favorite expression, went out to try to catch lightning in a bottle.
Aha. Leo Durocher, as his nickname suggests, was a famously mouthy player who became a celebrated manager for the Dodgers. He's credited with the saying nice guys finish last and it may well be that he invented your expression too. Either that, or~as with Yogi Berra~other people's gems were attributed to him because he was known to have an inventive way with words.
Where he took his inspiration from is unrecorded. It might have been Ben Franklin's famous experiment of flying a kite in a thunderstorm in order to charge a Leyden jar, an early form of capacitor.