May 7, 2006
Bad Taste in My Mouth

Why does the box of Wheaties I've pulled from the cupboard lately have a picture of Kirk Gibson on the front and a romantic testimonial to his heroics in the 1988 World Series on the back?

This is a new box of Wheaties, with a “better if used by” date of May 14, 2006. Kirk Gibson is so yesterday. Aren’t there any contemporary baseball stars that General Mills can sign up for the Wheaties box?

For me and other Oakland A’s fans, this is like reliving a nightmare. Gibson’s two-out, two-strike, bottom-of-the-ninth homerun won the first game of the series for the Dodgers over the A’s.

We remember that moment. We were in a restaurant in Rancho Murieta, relishing the A’s lead, and were so bummed out by Gibson’s homer that I don’t think I ever could bring myself to review the place. Given my sour disposition as an A’s fan, it wouldn’t have been fair.

At any rate, Gibson’s stellar career is being revived by Wheaties in large part because the company just didn’t redesign its boxes much from 1958 into the 1980s, and several legendary athletes from that era never got their proper recognition, explains Greg Zimprich, director of brand public relations for General Mills.

Certainly, there’s enough contemporary outstanding athletes to choose from, but General Mills never reveals in advance who it is about to feature or even is considering for the boxes.

A “small group” of company insiders keeps in touch with pro sports organizations to track athletes having breakout performances. The latest star to be featured is Steve Nash of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

So, Greg, when can we expect to see Barry Bonds on a box of Wheaties?

“We never discuss our future strategies, but we have no plans to do anything,” says Zimprich. “He was on a box a number of years ago, before the current issues came to light.”

Sounds like: Not soon, if ever.

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