Call me Aaron

Aaron Tovish
3 min readMar 7, 2024
The popularity of the name Aaron from 1880 to present. Note the steep climb starting in 1954 (marked) which levelled off in 1982.

The popularity of the name Aaron from 1880 to present. Note the steep climb starting in 1954 (marked) which levelled off in the late 1970s. (From

I write this with my 75th birthday fast approaching. Nowadays, wherever I turn there is an Aaron. For example in a film’s credits, the name shows up one, two, or three times regularly. It wasn’t always that way!

When I was a kid, in my world, there were just three people who shared my name: Aaron Copeland, Aaron Spellman, and Aaron Rhodes. You’re forgiven if you don’t recognize the last one. My parents were friends of the Rhodeses and thought their choice of “Aaron” for their son was worth emulating.

But that’s not quite the whole story, as I began to follow baseball, especially the Red Sox’s American League, I became aware of that guy in the National League who, starting in 1954, was hitting the ball out of the park, or at least into the bleachers, at a regular clip: Hank Aaron. And he just wouldn’t stop. By the 1974, he had a shot at the all-time record for career homeruns: Babe Ruth’s 714. He matched it 50 years ago (April 12th) and kept right on going until he retired in 1976 with 755.

Ruth’s record had lasted 41 years. Offically, Aaron’s record still stands. But Barry Bonds surpassed his number in the 2000s steriods era. While MLB officially recognizes only Aaron’s achievement, Aaron, generous man that he was, considered Bonds “the greatest” homerun hitter.

OK. Now take a look at the chart above.

The name Aaron was bouncing along at around 500th most popular (in the US) until the mid-1950s. Over the next three decades it soared above 50th place. Not the top 10, but pretty respectable nonetheless. Would I be exaggerating to conclude this rise is wholly attributable to American parents’ respect for the mighty rise of Hank Aaron?

It wasn’t due to me, or Copeland, or Spellman, that’s for sure.

When, as a kid, I learned about alphabetizing, I was excited to think that I would be listed first in my class at school. It was a bit of a let down when it became apparent that the listing wasn’t done by first name. I suppose Hank Aaron didn’t suffer that fate. Still when you see him at the top of many MLB lists, it is not because of the double Aa.

To name but three more lists he tops: Most total bases: 6,856; Most run batted in: 2,297; Most All-Star games: 25. These records that will stand for decades.

It is notable that Aaron has remained a relatively popular first name long after Mr. Aaron retired in 1976. The staying power of the name is probably due mainly to its ease of pronunciation (general more like “air in” than “ah ron”). But credit is probably also due to first-name Aarons, since Hank, that have achieved public acclaim. Sticking just to the field of sports, the two most notable these days being:

(1) Aaron Judge (born 1991). His 62 home runs in a season is the all-time record not counting the steroid era, and the most ever in the American League.

(2) Aaron Rodgers (born 1983). According to Wikipedia, he is “regarded among the greatest and most talented quarterbacks of all time.”

High-profile accomplishments such as these will help to keep “Aaron” alive for decades to come.

Now, what’s going to keep this Aaron alive for decades to come??


Well my birthday came and went, but I received this great present from Frank von Hippel:

Recalling what I said about my disappointment that names are listed by last names, you will find this at the end of the article:

“Keywords: Aaron Tovish, Albert Einstein, Andrei Sakharov, Bertrand
Russell, Charles Archambeau, Enrico Fermi, Eugene Rabinowitch, Evgeny
Velikhov, Federation of American Scientists, Glenn Seaborg, Hans
Bethe, J. Robert Oppenheimer, James Franck, Joseph Rotblat, Leo
Szilard, Linus Pauling, Manhattan Project, Mikhail Millionshchikov,
Niels Bohr, Paul Doty, Richard Garwin, Russell-Einstein Manifesto,
Thomas Cochran, World War II, physicists”

Not too shabby company to be heading up, eh what!

(Frank knows well enough that I did far more for the test ban than give Archambeau’s name to Cochran. But that’s a long story, and I am glad he used this shorthand way of giving me some credit in his article.)