Birth of a new Nation
Nine months after World Series win, newest Sox fans are coming to life
When Jason Varitek leaped into Keith Foulke's arms Oct. 27, 2004, they weren't the only ones embracing on that glorious night across Red Sox Nation.
Back in Boston, Dr. Robyn Riseberg and her husband, Doug, had a couple of beers, decided the stars were aligned, and celebrated the World Series championship in their own way. ''I will not refute that," said Riseberg, blushing slightly.
Now, there's living proof.
Emma Smith Riseberg, 5 pounds 5 ounces, was born June 18 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, six weeks early and with a head of hair that would make Johnny Damon envious. She is the first known baby conceived after the Red Sox won the world championship. Baby Emma already has a full Red Sox wardrobe and tickets in Section 16 from her season ticket-holding grandparents. Dr. Riseberg, a lifelong Sox fan, was on bed rest for eight weeks. ''We have Red Sox in our blood," she said. ''She gave me a run for my money, just like the Sox."
There are already signs of a ''Red Sox phenomenon," according to Isis Maternity, the largest provider of childbirth education and parent services in New England. The due dates start roughly in mid-July, nine months after the Evil Empire was destroyed in four straight games, and continue through August.
''Last week we sold more memberships than we had any other week," said Jo Myers McChesney, cofounder of Isis Maternity. ''There could definitely be a little bit of a Red Sox phenomenon going on. People being fired up after the playoffs and the World Series. We have strong class enrollment for couples delivering in late July and August, and they may very well end up being higher than other months."
Red Sox newborn baby clothes are flying off the shelves faster than Dave Roberts dashing for second base.
''We have definitely sold record numbers of Red Sox paraphernalia," said McChesney. ''Onesies for babies, teeny tiny T-shirts for newborns with Red Sox logos. We have definitely seen and expect to see an increase in kids named Manny."
Manny Ramírez, the World Series MVP, has preached that fun is his mantra, and fans have apparently taken that to heart. From Fenway to Fort Worth, the state of the Nation is big and very pregnant, and nearly bursting with joy. Forget the negative energy of the Curse of the Bambino. Rejoice in the Blessings of the Bambinos.
Outside the bleachers of Fenway Park, Kate Wolman, 29, orders a sausage with peppers and onions. Michael, the Sausage Man, gets on his knees and kisses her belly. Her husband, Dan, beams with joy. It's Father's Day and their baby is due July 9.
''We celebrated after beating the Yankees," said Kate. ''We checked the timing with the doctors and we're pretty darn sure of it. We stayed up late. We watched all the replays and the rioting in Boston, and we decided to find a different way to celebrate. To avoid all the destruction."
The Wolmans are superstitious. They wear the same clothes during a winning streak, so when they followed the Red Sox to St. Louis for the World Series, people probably gave them extra space. The Red Sox won their last eight games with Dan wearing his Tim Wakefield jersey.
Meanwhile, Kate suspected she was pregnant. They went to a World Series game with her dad, but she didn't want to take a chance and drink alcohol.
''I had to pretend I was sipping beer in the ballpark in St. Louis and then I'd sneak the beer over to Dan," she said.
Dan says they don't want to know the sex of the child. ''If it's a boy, we're considering naming him Tim," he said.
In the Murrysville Pizza Pub outside of Pittsburgh, they all know Dr. Suzie Putnam as that crazy Red Sox fan from New Hampshire. She watched the Yankees-Red Sox American League Championship Series there. It was a hostile environment. ''Everyone was rooting for the Yankees," she said.
''I went over the bar at a waitress I was so frustrated," she said. Putnam wept during the Game 3 19-8 massacre, which gave the Yankees a 3-0 series lead.
The next morning she started crying in the car. ''My husband said, 'Suzie, we really shouldn't have kids. We can't do this to another generation of Putnams.' "
But the Sox rallied, Putnam kissed the TV after David Ortiz won Games 4 and 5 on the same day. Her dad, a lifelong Red Sox fan living in retirement in Arizona, told her Derek Lowe would pitch great in Game 7 because it was his contract year, and the Sox would win. Even the karma in the bar improved. After the World Series victory, Putnam remembers ''total strangers were buying me shots."
But starting a family was never on their radar screen. Their dog, Yaz -- named after Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski -- was the extent of their immediate family.
Eight weeks later, Putnam got ''terribly sick." She eventually got a pregnancy test. The baby already had a heartbeat. ''It took me two weeks to figure it out, and I'm a doctor," she said.
Using a calendar, they figured out the baby was conceived the night the Red Sox won the World Series. ''This was not a planned thing," she said. ''We used birth control but I just lost my focus after they won."
She went on a fan website, theredseat.com, to share her story with other expectant parents, and won a free baby T-shirt.
''Apparently, my ovaries finally felt it was safe to bring a child into this world," she wrote. Putnam said they don't know if the baby will be a boy or a girl.
''I'm trying to work on my husband to call the baby Jason, after Jason Varitek, if it's a boy," she said.
In New York, Seth Kessler and his wife, Dara, watched Game 4 of the World Series from a Manhatten rooftop apartment they were staying at while their apartment was being remodeled. Kessler, a transported New Englander, enjoyed the game. Dara watched the red, orange lunar eclipse. But it was the noise from other Red Sox fans partying in the heart of enemy territory that kept Seth awake. ''Ironically, there are a half-dozen Irish pubs on the block," he said. ''That night people were literally screaming. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't sleep."
The baby is due July 20. ''My wife is a holistic dentist who does fertility counseling on the side," Seth said. ''She claims she was ovulating because of the full moon. I claim it's due to the fact that the Red Sox won the World Series.
''I suggested some Red Sox names like Manny, Nomar, or Teddy, but I don't think my wife is going for it."
Allen Mattison of Bethesda, Md., wonders if the ''seats of Fenway and the streets of Boston are filled with women bumping bellies into each other." He says his baby was conceived after the ALCS victory over the Yankees. It is due July 15. He feels that with the Yankees choking last year and the Sox breaking the so-called curse, the future bodes well for his newborn.
''It's a better world now. They'll never know that pain, and that's a good thing. Imagine now our kids won't have their hearts broken every year." He pauses to think. ''Well, maybe."
The 31-year-old Georgetown law student who grew up in Belmont said he has found circumstantial evidence of Red Sox babies in the nation's capital.
''We were at a baby care class with a whole bunch of pregnant women down here in Washington D.C.," he said ''The people sitting next to us also were Red Sox fans, originally from Rhode Island. I figure it must be going around in New England."
He also committed a faux paus.
''Right between the Yankees and the Cardinal series, I told my wife I revised my theory on the curse. That all through October I said the curse wouldn't be over until the Red Sox had the World Series trophy in hand. Now looking back on it, I mentioned to my wife I think the curse ended when the Red Sox beat the Yankees. That winning the World Series was the first greatest thing to happen post-curse. She gave me a pretty sharp look and said, 'Don't you mean the second great event?' She was right about that."
''We jokingly tossed around names like David Ortiz Mattison and Papi Mattison. Manny Mattison, but it's going to be a girl and we're not quite at that level of addiction."
What's in a name?
Matt Hanlon, a computer programmer in Santa Clara, Calif., said he likes the name Pedrina, if his World Series baby is a girl. His wife, a native of Ireland, got hooked on the Red Sox two years ago. She only suffered once, in 2003, thanks to Aaron Boone, and then got to celebrate.
''I don't think Pedrina's a real name, but I'm trying to slip Pedro in there," he said. ''I don't think I'll be allowed to."
Hanlon, who was born and raised in Worcester, doesn't want the baby to be born in Massachusetts. ''Too crowded," he said. ''I figure we're safe out here in California. I think back home there will be a little bit of Red Sox baby boom. Kind of like the Blizzard of '78 baby boom."
Local hospitals won't know for sure if there's a spike in births until the end of August. But one hospital official was skeptical.
''It would be a good story, but there's no discernible difference," said Jerry Berger, a spokesman at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. There was no spike in births after the first two Patriots Super Bowl wins. But there wasn't 50,000 Yankee fans chanting, ''Who's your daddy" then, either.
Kent Fischer, 34, was starting to wonder if he ever would become a daddy. Fischer, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, and his wife, Kathy, 35, an advertising executive, had been trying without success for almost two years.
''Kathy had gone to the doctor to get hormone treatments," Kent said. ''We thought we needed some help."
With the hormones unopened on a shelf in the bathroom, the couple decided to wait until after the World Series was over to use them. Both are huge Sox fans.
Kathy, who grew up in Carlisle, once flooded a supermarket contest with more than 50 entries to win a day with Butch Hobson and Jim Rice when she was 12. She still has the autographed baseballs from that day. When they make pilgrimages to Fenway, she likes to keep score. Kent, who grew up in upstate New York, has an office that is a Red Sox shrine, complete with a Green Monster.
They conceived the night after the Series ended. Their due date is July 19.
''It's kind of goofy for not being able to get pregnant for two years and then this," said Kent. ''It definitely put a smile on my face. It seems an odd coincidence."
''The curse was broken," said Kathy. ''I was shocked when I found out I was pregnant. I don't know, maybe we did have a curse on us magically dispelled. Kent calls him the shortstop. Hopefully he'll have a good throwing arm. But if he's a lefty, he'll stay a lefty. We won't try to change him to a righty."
But the baby boy will not have a Red Sox name. ''We settled on the name Nick," said Kent. ''I offered up the name Trot, she shot that down. I offered up the name Tek, in honor of our captain, Jason Varitek. She shot that down. She gave consideration to the name Manny for about 30 seconds before she declined."
In Fort Worth, Andy Thompson, a gas and chemical technician, is reached on his cellphone after his last Lamaze class. He says he is 100 percent sure that conception took place after the Sox won the World Series. ''We celebrated like any red-blooded Americans are going to," he said. ''It was one of those miracle nights where we ended up sweeping out the Cardinals, and we brought our man into the world."
His wife, Stephanie, 38, who has family in Connecticut, said they made a vow that night. ''We said if we get pregnant tonight, we're naming him Damon Mientkiewicz Thompson." They have since dropped the Mientkiewicz part, partially because they couldn't spell it, partially because former Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz kept the baseball from the last out of the World Series. ''It's one of those things. If it was me, I would have tossed it back to Foulke, but what can you do?" said Andy.
Both Thompsons are certain there will be a spike in births over the next month in Boston. ''I think so, just because of the jubilation of it all," said Andy.
But doesn't all that drinking and celebrating cause a lot of fans to just pass out? ''Well, you know, some of them find their way," said Stephanie, giggling.
At Isis Maternity, some of the dozen parents-to-be in an educational class said the Red Sox games were too long and too late to think about lovemaking. But Kevin Cooney of Newton interrupted them. He said the late nights were nothing compared to the suffering he has endured as a lifelong Red Sox fan. ''We had a bottle of champagne from the year before unpopped, and another from '86 unpopped, so we popped 'em and things happened," said Cooney, as his wife, Jennifer, eight months pregnant, blushed redder than Curt Schilling's sock.