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ESPN MLB insider
Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
ARLINGTON, Texas — In 1790, when the United States held its first census, one surname stood above all others. Nearly 6,000 white families, and more than 33,000 people, were called Smith. Today, 230 years later, among young and old, Black and white, Smith remains the king of American names, with nearly 2.5 million.
Similarly, there is a good case to be made that William has emerged as the most seminal given name in America. Never has William been the most popular, at least not since the government has kept track starting with births in the 1880s. But its staying power is remarkable. William has outlasted Robert, John, Michael, David and other challengers. William is so powerful that one of its derivatives, Liam, is currently the most popular boys’ name in America while William itself is fourth. It is a name that can be regal and hardscrabble, bourgeois and backcountry.
The consequence of these two things, then, is that the single most American name, owed such a title for its longevity, is William Smith. And while it’s unclear whether that’s numerically the case — it could be James Smith or John Williams or some other combination using Michael or David and Johnson or Brown or Jones — days like Friday certainly bolster the argument in its favor.
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