A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 26, 2013
“You can’t make the club in the tub” (sports adage)

"You can’t make the club in the tub” means that you can’t make the team if you’re always injured (and in the tub because of injury). “You can’t make the club in the tub” has been cited in print since at least 1956, when it was a sign in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ clubhouse. The saying has also been very popular in professional football.


10 June 1956, New York (NY) Times, “‘Big Guy’ At Pittsburgh” by Charles Einstein, magazine section, pg. 207:
“YOU CAN T MAKE THE CLUB,” states a large, two-color sign, “IN THE TUB.”

7 March 1958, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, “Batting Around” by Harry Jones, pg. 32, col. 4:
Manager Bobby Bragan is not the type to post inspiring notices in the clubhouse, but he did post a dandy by the whirlpool bath. It reads: “You can’t make the club in the tub.”

Google Books
Baseball Is a Funny Game
By Joe Garagiola
New York, NY: Bantam Books
1960
Pg. 30:
The only sign I have ever seen is the one on the wall in the Pittsburgh clubhouse: YOU CAN’T MAKE THE CLUB IN THE TUB.

Google Books
The Jim Plunkett Story:
The saga of a man who came back

By Jim Plunkett with Dave Newhouse
New York, NY: Arbor House
1981
Pg. 84:
“Roger, you can’t make the club in the tub,” John said.

“Coach, you can’t take the field until you’re healed,” Hollywood Rog replied

Google Books
They Call Me Dirty
By Conrad Dobler with Vic Carucci
New York, NY: Berkley Publishing Group
1989, ©1988.
Pg. 86:
There’s an old saying in the NFL: “You can’t make the club when you’re sittin’ in the tub.”

Google Books
Starting and Closing:
Perseverance, Faith, and One More Year

By John Smoltz with Don Yaeger
New York, NY: HarperCollins
2012
Pg. ?:
The number one golden rule in baseball is you can’t make the club in the tub, but I think I might be the first exception to that rule.

CBS Sports
Giants’ Prince Amukamara: ‘You can’t make the club in the tub’
By Alex Raskin | CBSSports.com
August 26, 2012 1:33 pm ET
(...)
That’s one reason why Amukamara, the star of the team’s recent “Ice Bath” YouTube clip fiasco, is in a hurry to get better. “You get banged up and I know the saying is ‘You can’t make the club in the tub,’” he said. “I’ve been in the tub enough. So I just have to hurry up and get out and do everything I can to help this team.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Friday, April 26, 2013 • Permalink