On January 19, 1953, in one of the most widely publicized births in TV history, actress and comedienne Lucille Ball welcomes her second child at Los Angeles’ Cedars of Lebanon Hospital on the same night Lucy Ricardo, her character on the hit TV show “I Love Lucy,” also gives birth. The “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” episode (Season 2, Episode 16) drew more viewers than any other television episode up to that date; at least 68 percent of American households tuned into CBS to watch the birth of "Little Ricky."
The actress, 41 at the time, had scheduled a C-section to coincide with the episode—an idea the CBS network and one of the show’s advertising sponsors opposed at first. Sure enough, when the episode was airing and the fictional Lucy was giving birth to Little Ricky, the real-life Desi Arnaz Jr.—son of Ball and husband Desi Arnaz—entered the world at 8 pounds and 1 ounce. On the show, TV husband Ricky Ricardo wreaked comic havoc in the waiting room by putting on his freaky costume for a band performance that evening.
Incredibly, the birth episode garnered more media attention than really big news the next day: the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 20, 1953. Ball recalled: “Sixteen years later, President Eisenhower was standing with us outside the El Dorado Country Club and he pointed to my son and said, ‘Is that the young man who knocked me off the front pages?’”
It was lucky that “Lucy” writers wrote a baby boy into the script, show editor Dann Cahn said in an interview with the Television Academy: “The child being a boy [in the show] had been decided weeks earlier. Remember, there was no ultrasound testing—they didn’t know if it was twins, whether it’s a boy or a girl, or two boys or whatever. They didn’t have that in the ’50s.”
Ball died at age 77 on April 26, 1989, in Los Angeles. The famous-upon-birth Arnaz Jr. grew up to become an actor and musician.