Though I doubt Wheaties was on Greg Anderson’s list of nutrious breakfasts for Barry Bonds, the New York Times’ William Rhoden wonders when or if the Sultan of Surly will appear on the cereal box ala Bruce Jenner or Keri Strung.
Attendance is up, viewership is up, but the most significant sign of baseball’s popularity came last week when Wheaties, the breakfast of champions, signed a two-year deal with Major League Baseball.
The arrangement calls for Wheaties and baseball to collaborate on at least three baseball-themed packages in the next year. On opening day, a Wheaties box will commemorate a great moment in baseball.
Curious timing. With some of the game’s biggest names embroiled in steroid controversy, why baseball? Why now?
“Baseball helped make this brand what it is today,” said Eric Lucas, the vice president for marketing of General Mills. “Our only view of baseball is forward-thinking. We feel that there are a lot of great athletes and champions in the world of baseball who are worthy of celebration by putting them on a Wheaties box.”
Mark McGwire made the Wheaties box when he won the home run title. Now we know the breakfast of that champion was andro, at the very least.
“We made that determination based on the information we had at the time,” Lucas said. “We recognize that athletes are human beings and none of us is perfect. But in order to represent Wheaties, we’re looking for champions on and off the field.”
Lou Gehrig was the first athlete to appear on a box of Wheaties. Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roy Campanella and Bob Feller have made the box.
I’d give anything to be in the General Mills executive session when Barry Bonds, the face of baseball’s steroids issue, passes the great Babe Ruth for second place on the career home run list. With fans screaming for asterisks and the news media digging into steroid use, will Bonds be a Wheaties candidate?
Lucas was diplomatic. “It’s never been our policy to preannounce who’s going to be on the box,” he said.