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In celebration of Labor Day, I bring you a 25-man roster composed of the best players in MLB history with occupational surnames–in other words, names derived from a type of labor.

I used Baseball-Reference’s version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as a guide for choosing the best players. I’ve listed each player’s WAR along with where that figure ranks at his position.

To determine if a surname is occupational in origin, I did a search on either Behind the Name

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or The Internet Surname Database
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. There are, however, many uncommon surnames that aren’t in either database, so I am almost certainly missing someone. Please chime in with suggestions in the comments!

Some of the surnames are easy to understand, but others are more obscure, so I’ve added explanations of each surname’s origin to the list. I’ve also listed some honorable mentions at each position. Overall, it’s a pretty darn impressive team, even if it does have some relative weak spots–at second base and in the starting rotation, especially.

I picked two players from each infield position, five outfielders, five starting pitchers, and five relievers.

Catchers

Starter: Gary CARTER

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 (66.4 WAR, 2nd among catchers) — One who uses a cart to transport goods, from Norman French cartier

Backup: Darrell PORTER

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 (37.8 WAR, 18th) — Doorkeeper, from Old French porte meaning “door”

A nice duo, featuring the late Expos & Mets star Carter and the underrated Porter.

Honorable mention
Walker COOPER

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 – Barrel maker, from Middle English coupere

1st Basemen

Starter: Rafael PALMEIRO

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 (66.2 WAR, 9th among 1st basemen) — Portuguese form of Palmer (see Jim Palmer below)

Backup: Will CLARK

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 (53.2 WAR, 18th) – Cleric or scribe, from Old English clerec, “priest”

It’s interesting that these two guys came up, as they are inextricably linked in my mind. The reason I always associate them is that they engaged in a weird switcheroo as the main first basemen for the Rangers and the Orioles in the 1990s and early 2000s. After the 1993 season, Palmeiro went from the Rangers to the Orioles; Clark took his place with the Rangers. When Palmeiro left the Orioles after the 1998 season, heading back to the Rangers, Clark went the opposite direction, signing with the Orioles.

Honorable mentions
Miguel CABRERA

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 – Goat herder, from the Spanish cabra, “goat”
Cecil COOPER
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Wally JOYNER
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 – Maker of wooden furniture, from Old French joigneor

2nd Basemen

Starter: Max BISHOP

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 (34.8 WAR, 35th among 2nd basemen) — Bishop, ultimately from Greek episkopos, “overseer”

Backup: Ron HUNT

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 (30.6 WAR, 46th) — Hunter, from Old English hunta

This is a weak pair, relatively speaking. Both these guys had very good on-base skills but almost no power.

Honorable mention
Phil GARNER

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 – Gardener, from Norman French gardin

Shortstops

Starter: Honus WAGNER

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 (126.2 WAR, 1st among shortstops) – Cartwright (wagon-maker), from Middle High German wagener

Backup: Ozzie SMITH

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 (73.0 WAR, 5th) — Metal worker, from Old English smitan, “to smite, to hit”

Two shortstops, two all-time greats. Having Ozzie Smith as a defensive replacement is pretty sweet.

Honorable mentions
Joe TINKER

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 – Mender of pots & pans (later: traveling salesman), from the “tink” sound of metal on metal
Art FLETCHER
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 – One who attaches feathers to arrows (called “fletching”), or a seller of arrows

3rd Basemen

Starter: Mike SCHMIDT

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 (103.0 WAR, 1st among 3rd basemen) — Metal worker, from the German word for “smith”

Backup: Home Run BAKER

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 (59.5 WAR, 11th) — Baker, obviously, from Middle English bakere

You can’t do any better than Mike Schmidt at third base. Baker just barely edged out the best Boyer brother for the backup spot; you could easily go the other way.

Honorable mentions
Ken BOYER

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 – Maker of bows (for shooting arrows), from Middle English boiwyere
Larry GARDNER
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 – Gardener, see Garner’s entry above
David WRIGHT
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– generic word for worker or craftsman

Outfielders

Left Field Starter: Barry BONDS

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 (158.0 WAR, 2nd among outfielders) — Peasant farmer, from Old English bonda/bunda

Center Field Starter: Duke SNIDER

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 (63.1 WAR, 30th) — Tailor (“one who sews”), from Dutch snyder

Right Field Starter: Larry WALKER

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 (69.5 WAR, 20th) — One who walks on damp raw cloth in order to thicken it, from Middle English walkere

4th Outfielder: Reggie SMITH

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 (60.8 WAR, 35th)

5th Outfielder: Vladimir GUERRERO

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 (55.4 WAR, 50th) — Warrior, from Germanic werra, “war”

Any outfield anchored by Barry Bonds is going to be pretty good, but all 4 of the other guys were excellent players for a very long time. If you’re not as critical of Vlad’s defense as B-Ref is (-10.8 defensive WAR in his career!), you could make a case for him to start over Walker in right field.

Honorable mentions
Bobby BONDS

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Jack CLARK
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Harry HOOPER
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 – One who puts metal hoops around wooden barrels
Brett BUTLER
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 – Servant in charge of bottles, from Middle English botte, “bottle”

Starting Pitchers

1st Starter: Jim PALMER

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 (63.2 WAR, 36th among starting pitchers) — Pilgrim, from the fact that medieval pilgrims brought palm fronds back from the Holy Land

2nd Starter: Red FABER

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 (61.9 WAR, 40th) — Iron worker, from Old French fevre

3rd Starter: Tommy BOND

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 (60.8 WAR, 42nd) — Peasant farmer (same origin as BONDS)

4th Starter: Bob FELLER

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 (59.9 WAR, 46th) — Tree cutter (I’m just assuming, can’t find confirmation)

5th Starter: Satchel PAIGE

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 (wild card pick based mostly on Negro League legend) — Servant to a knight, from “page”

This is a relatively weak rotation. While all of these guys were excellent pitchers, none of them (aside from possibly Paige) were upper-echelon greats. At least the back end of the rotation is solid, since the WAR figures of the 1st four starters all virtually equal. The starting-pitching pool was so shallow that I went with my gut and put Bob Feller on the list even though I couldn’t find any official derivation of his last name. I also added Satchel Paige, figuring that if he had been allowed in MLB from an earlier age, he would have easily accrued enough WAR to make the team.

Honorable mentions
Wilbur COOPER

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Chris CARPENTER
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 – woodworker, from Middle English carpentier

Relievers

Closer: Lee SMITH

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 (27.9 WAR, 5th among relievers)

Righty Setup 1: Trevor HOFFMAN

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 (27.0 WAR, 6th) — Farmer, from Middle High German hoveman

Righty Setup 2: Bruce SUTTER

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 (23.6 WAR, 12th) — Shoemaker, from Old English sutere

Lefty Setup: Billy WAGNER

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 (26.9 WAR, 7th)

Long Man: Stu MILLER

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 (25.5 WAR, 9th) — Grain mill operator, from Old English milne

That is one hell of a bullpen, featuring four of the best closers of all time and a guy in Miller who had some excellent relief seasons for the Orioles and Giants in the 1950s and ’60s.

Honorable mentions
Terry FORSTER

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 – Maker of chisels and shears, from French forcetier
Bob MILLER
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Mike MARSHALL
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  — Horse servant, from Germanic marah ”horse” and scalc ”servant”
Gene GARBER
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 – Clothes maker, from “garb”
Jim BREWER
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 – Beer or ale maker

That’s the 25-man roster. I didn’t put any Designated Hitters on the team, but if you need one, you could use Travis HAFNER

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 (potter, from Middle German hafen, “pot, dish”) or perhaps Billy BUTLER
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.

As for managers, I’d go with Earl WEAVER

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 by a nose over Dusty BAKER
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. Also of note: Chuck TANNER
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 (one who tans–toughens–animal hides) and Harry WRIGHT
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.

Finally, I’d like to name former Tigers farmhand Edward LABORIO

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 as the unofficial mascot of the team. Enjoy your holiday, Edward (and everyone else)!

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One Response to The All-Time Labor Day Team

  1. Tommy Walker
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    says:

    The starting rotation is an especially interesting area to have a weak spot, given that the constructor of a team generally has a much easier time identifying his starting pitchers than the rest of his ballclub. Kind of like the ease of a fan who only needs to choose three All-Star outfielders rather than sweat over who to put in right, center and left.

    If a player is not named for his historical occupation, where does his surname come from? If he does not come from workers, his family line would die, would it not, unless he came from aristocracy, or a higher social strata. Oh what fun to contemplate for the politically incorrect among us.

    Reply
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