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Real Babies Are Game’s Promotion

July 27, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ Forget those beanie baby giveaways that are so popular at ballparks these days. Some lucky Lowell Spinners fan could go home from the game carrying a real baby.

The Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox is inviting 20 expectant mothers _ dozens of others had to be turned away _ to attend ``Birth Night″ on Thursday against the Vermont Expos.

The first one to give birth after the first pitch wins a year’s supply of diapers. Ambulances and local obstetrician Ed Lipman will be on call.

``They’ll take her to a hospital,″ Spinners spokesman Dan Hoffman said. ``She’s not going to give birth on the concourse.″

The women and their partners get free box seats behind home plate _ under the screen, so they’re protected from foul balls, of course.

If no one goes into labor, as is likely, the contest continues until one of the registered women has her baby. The winning mother need only fax the birth certificate to claim her prize, and she has a couple extra days to do it.

``I don’t think we’d be their first phone call,″ Hoffman said.

Giveaway days are credited to former White Sox, Indians and St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck, who used the prizes to lure children to the ballpark. He made his money back on all the peanuts and hot dogs they ate while waiting for the game to start.

Usually, the freebies would be limited by age, such as 12 years old and under. But never before has the age limit been measured in minutes.

To midwife this project to fruition, the Spinners contacted local obstetricians in search of women nearing their 40th week of pregnancy. Lisa Armstrong saw a poster at her doctor’s office, noticed the game date was her due date, and figured she had a pretty good chance.

``It’s actually closer (to the hospital) than if I were at home,″ she said. ``And I don’t anticipate it actually happening then.″

While turning the miracle of childbirth into a promotional gimmick may not seem proper to some, doctors agreed there is no added medical risk.

``It’s unlikely that any of these women are going to go into labor during the game,″ said Dr. Edward Evantash, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Boston’s Beth Israel-Deaconness Medical Center. ``The watched uterus rarely contracts.″

Veeck gave away bats, balls and caps. As the idea spread, the gifts expanded to beach sandals, team calendars and beanie babies. In recent years, publicity-starved teams have taken the idea to new heights, or lows.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who employ Veeck’s son, Mike, in their marketing department, had a ``Lawyer Appreciation Night,″ in which attorneys were charged double _ and billed by the third of an inning.

On Conversion Day, fans were rewarded for getting rid of New York Yankees caps. Plans to reprise his father’s notorious Disco Demolition Night, when disco records were blown up between games of a doubleheader were canceled.

During his minor league days, Mike Veeck’s ideas included a pig that delivered baseballs to umpires and a nun that gave massages. In 1997, his Charleston RiverDogs planned giving away a free vasectomy in honor of Father’s Day, then canceled the promotion after complaints.

The Spinners said they asked around town to see if anyone was offended before going ahead with their plans.

``We haven’t gotten any complaints,″ Hoffman said.

``This is not terribly offensive,″ Evantash agreed. ``At least there’s an available catcher’s mitt.″