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 August 19, 2014
“Play me or trade me”

"Play me or trade me” is a demand that a little-used player makes to the management of the team. “Trade me or play me” was supposedly said by St. Louis Cardinals player Pepper Martin (1904-1965) to general manager Branch Rickey (1881-1965) in 1931. Martin was not traded and soon became the starting centerfielder.

The expression became popular on the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s. Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) made a “play me or trade me” demand in 1955. Don Zimmer (1931-2014) made such a demand of the Dodgers later in the 1950s. Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi (1914-2008) is alleged to have said a week later, “We played him and now we can’t trade him.”


Wikipedia: Pepper Martin
Johnny Leonard Roosevelt “Pepper” Martin (February 29, 1904 – March 5, 1965) was an American professional baseball player and minor league manager. He was known as the Wild Horse of the Osage because of his daring, aggressive baserunning abilities. Martin played in Major League Baseball as a third baseman and an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1930s and early 1940s. He was best known for his heroics during the 1931 World Series, in which he was the catalyst in a Cardinals’ upset victory over the Philadelphia Athletics.

Martin was an integral member of the Cardinals’ teams of the 1930s that became known as the Gashouse Gang for their roguish behavior and practical jokes.

6 April 1955, Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner, “Dissension Hurts Brooks Flag Chances” by Gayle Talbot (AP), pg. 2B, col. 7: 
In his original outburst, Jackie demanded “If he doesn’t want to play me, let ‘em trade me.”
(Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson.—ed.)

13 October 1955, Chester (PA) Times, “Brooklyn’s Robinson Due for Big Pay Slash For Constant Popping Off and Popping Out” (AP), pg. 49, col. 3:
‘PLAY OR TRADE’
“Play me or trade me,” Robby said in the spring when Alston tried to learn whether Don Zimmer or Dan Hoak could do the job at third base.

15 February 1957, Boston (MA) Evening American, “No Play, No Pay Rookie Complaint: No Raises Sitting on Bench” by Mike Gillooly, pg. 44, col. 2:
Stephens and Lepelo raise the same appeal as Faye Throneberry and Milt Bolling. They ask ‘Play me or trade me,” but not with the idea of getting away from Boston, but simply because they can’t get raises sitting on the bench.

Google News Archive
13 February 1961, Register-Guard (Eugene, OR), pg. 3B, col. 1:
Became Gashoue Sparkplug
‘Trade Me or Play Me,’ Pepper Told Boss

By JOE REICHLER and BEN OLAN
Of the Associated Press
(...)
He joined the Redbirds in 1931 and forced the club to give him regular work, after spending half the season doing utility and pinch-hitting chores. He burst into Branch Rickey’s office one day and insisted: “Trade me or play me. I’m tired of riding the bench.” Pepper became the regular centerfield in mid-season, and for years thereafter he was the club’s most colorful figure, other than Dizzy Dean.

Sports Illustrated Vault
Originally Posted: October 8, 1962
Pepper Puts on a Show
A brash Cardinal rookie upset the A’s when he ran wild on the bases in the 1931 World Series

By JOHN DURANT
General Manager Branch Rickey’s cigar took an extra whirl when a bench-warming outfielder stormed into his office one June afternoon in 1931 and shouted, “You play me or trade me. I wasn’t made to sit on no bench.”

The speaker was John Leonard (Pepper) Martin—a 27-year-old rookie who had been bouncing around in the minors since 1923.

OCLC WorldCat record
Play me or trade me
Author: Brian Savage
Publisher: New York : Dell, ©1972.
Edition/Format: Book : English

Google Books
The Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations
Edited by Wayne Stewart
New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing
2007
Pg. 17:
Play me or trade me.
— Believed to have been said first by Brooklyn’s Don Zimmer

We played him and now we can’t trade him.
— Team executive Buzzie Bavasi on Zimmer

Google Books
Just Play Ball
By Joe Garagiola
Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Pub.
2007
Pg. 139:
Don Zimmer told general manager Buzzie Bavasi to either “Play me or trade me.” A week later Bavasi came back with, “Well, we played him and now we can’t trade him.”

Urban Dictionary
“Play me or Trade me” speech
Usually when a star athlete is benched for a period, they come out to the media and ask the Coach to play me or trade me, meaning get me on the field or let me go somewhere else and play. When you have been dating a woman for about six months, (or six weeks, in some cases), she may ask you where this relationship is going, ie either play me (marry me) or let me find someone else that will (trade me)
(...)
by Irish Mike 2006 October 09, 2007

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Tuesday, August 19, 2014 • Permalink