Where Have All the Bobs Gone?

Last Bob in sports? (Photo: Bradjward)

Jon Bois at SB Nation writes about the disappearance of Bobs in sports:

Across the histories of Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and NCAA football and basketball, there have been a total of 1,884 athletes who primarily went by the name Bob. Not Robert, or Bobby, but Bob. 

Of those 1,884 Bobs, Sanders [of the San Diego Chargers] is the only one still playing.

We’ve written regularly about names and how some just go out of fashion. The fact is that “Robert” is still holding its own. From the Social Security Administration’s Names Index:

Popularity of the male name Robert
Year of birth Rank
2010 54
2009 55
2008 49
2007 47
2006 47
2005 37
2004 36
2003 35
2002 34
2001 30
2000 29

But “Bob,” as both a nickname and a given name, has fallen out of favor. As the SSA database informs us, “Bob is not in the top 1,000 names for any year of birth in the last 12 years. Please enter another name.” It turns out that Bob as a given name fell out of the top 1,000 back in 1984:

Popularity of the male name Bob

Year of birth Rank
1983 935
1982 940
1981 985
1980 855
1979 795
1978 812
1977 778
1976 711
1975 624
1974 619
1973 543
1972 536
1971 449



...and Bob isn't even Sanders real name, it's Demond.


They changed their name to "Matt" and deciced to play quarterback.


Perhaps it name "Bob" has not gotten less popular, but the populous is getting smarter in recognizing that one is a nickname for the other and if they want their child to be able to use Robert when he gets older, then they had better use Robert. Alternatively or also, it is possible that more births are happening at home and many of those people do not register with SSA right away - and perhaps those people are less mainstream, thus representing a higher proportion of Bob's vs. the more conservative Robert.

The point i am trying to make is that using only one index to verify a trend is a bad idea if you really want accuracy - and data does not make causality - (that is, perhaps not less popular, but another reason it is showing up less).


Maybe the decreasing number of Bobs is related to the increase of Roberto as a given name and, thus, to the increase of latin population in the US... Just a thought.


I'm a Bobby...on my actual birth certificate. Seems I'm already on the extinct list!



I never quite understood why "Bob" was a nickname for "Robert" in the first place...


Ever since that athlete who had no arms and legs and fell into the water......

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Robert aka Bob

This is a very important issue to me. I am so glad that Freakonomics did a study on this. The government needs to do more to combat this issue. We can not allow Bob, or Robert for that matter, to disappear due to Global Warming or Bush. We can do this by raising taxes on people with more popular names and names that are growing in popularity and distributing their wealth to names like Robert and Bob. Furthermore, all Bobs and Roberts should Unionize so that we can force new parents to name their children Robert and call them Bob and encourage name changes. SAVE THE BOBS!

Thomas Keene

That was hilarious!


I'm a Robert by birth. I meet plenty of other Bobs but I have never met anyone whose legal name is Bob. There will always be a lot of Bobs around but it will say Robert on our birth certificates.

Following up Tony's comment, nicknames sometimes happen for no apparent good reason. I never understood why Jack was a nickname for John. It's not like it's any easier to say. The real crazy leap of nicknaming is that Peg is a nickname for Margaret.

Mike B

I think most Bob's went on to become full time Uncles.


"Susan", which was number 2 or 3 from 1957 to 1964, is down to 792 in 2010.

Josh Bob

Plus, where are all the pro athletes with the LAST name Bob?

robbie C

I feel partly responsible, coming from a long line of Roberts, I have not produced any of my own to keep stock levels up. just to note, I was a Bob or Bobby up to 1991 when someone called me Robbie and it stuck ever since - No research on Robbie?

robbie C

is the collective name for Roberts a "bobbity"?


Most parents would not want to name a child after SpongeBob,


Who want's to be named after their uncle anyway?


In sports, it's likely a racial thing. Blacks now make up a higher percentage of pro athletes than in the past, and Freakonomics fans know about the trend toward unique first names (fewer Roberts or Bobs) among blacks.


most people have a hard time pronouncing my name spelling my name. some just rather call me Rachel. Now my question ,is does Raquel comes from Rachel or is it Rachel that comes from Raquel. from what i have search and find on the internet Raquel is a Hebrew . wjich gives me the impression, that Rachel is a american translation of Raquel. Please anyone that can clarify this for me.