Somewhere in the depths of Sunday evening, despair paid a visit to the studios of radio station WIYY in Baltimore.
In Kansas City that afternoon, the Orioles had lost their 18th straight game. While the rest of the nation let out a collective giggle, Bob Rivers, the disc jockey who has vowed to stay on the air until the O's win, teetered on the brink of a depression as deep as the losing streak is long.
"I felt," he says, "that it had just become awful now and I wasn't entertaining and no one was going to care."
Fortunately the mood only lasted until his 11 p.m. nap. On 98 Rock, the Birdwatch goes on.
By noon today, Rivers will have been on the air for 175 hours. He's been able to catnap during some recorded concert programs and his life was probably saved by a six-hour jazz program that allowed him to sleep away much of Sunday morning. He hasn't exercised or seen the sun since the early morning of April 19. He is getting a "full-body massage each day," he says, adding: "It's not what you're thinking."
The 32-year-old former Red Sox fan also gets his pulse and blood pressure taken daily. He has dinner each evening at the station with his wife Lisa and their sons Keith, 5, and Andrew, 3. At bedtime he reads the boys a bedtime story on the air, thus making WIYY the only album-oriented rock station in the country with a regular Dr. Seuss feature.
Yesterday was the most difficult day of the vigil since Rivers had nothing to look forward to. The Orioles avoided defeat by not playing. Rivers, for his part, kept baseball on his listeners' minds by playing the team's 1988 highlight tape. When those 30 seconds were up, he'd put on a record. The O's will try, try again tonight in Minneapolis against the lackluster Twins. The deejay remains hopeful. But then what choice does he have?
"Bright spots? Let's see. There's only about 140 games left," he says. "And Cal Ripken hit a homer Sunday. These last few games looked like real games, not like the Bad News Bears."
News of his escapade has prompted calls from as far away as Santiago, Chile. Rivers has also received a telegram from Orioles General Manager Roland Hemond, who also professes not to be sleeping, and phone calls from second baseman Bill Ripken and outfielder Ken Gerhardt.
"To be honest with you, they sounded a little depressed," Rivers says. "They said the nice things that you say. They were kind of melancholy. I can't wait until they get home and see the fan support."
Keeping fans interested in the journey of a team going nowhere is what keeps Rivers going. He knows that the Orioles' future in Baltimore is far from assured and doesn't want poor attendance used as an excuse to move the team.
"Baseball is a business and they have to worry about their bottom line," Rivers says. "That's one of the reasons we are doing this.
"I think they should be buying me a car," he continues, laughing. "But I'm not going to ask for it."
WIYY and its sister station, WBAL-AM, which broadcasts the Orioles games, are sponsoring Fantastic Fan Night, a sort of Re-Opening Day when the team returns to Memorial Stadium on May 2 to play Texas. The appeal is primarily corporate -- tickets are $2 apiece if bought in blocks of 100 or more. A variety of other tickets are available for $3. Prizes, including a trip to the Bahamas, will be awarded after each inning. An Orioles spokesman says he expects at least 30,000 fans to turn out if the weather is right. Fittingly, Rivers will throw out the first pitch.
"He should be a candidate for sainthood by that time," says station Promotions Director Tom Meyers. "We're hoping he can ascend to Heaven right in front of everybody. Or at least fall asleep and get some rest."