Iconic Wheaties Boxes You Probably Forgot About | So Yummy (2022)

Table of Contents
The campaign for the iconic slogan “Breakfast of Champions” began 85 years ago. Lou Gehrig, 1934 On July 4th, 1939, Lou Gehrig gave his famous farewell to baseball speech. Serena Williams, 2019 Her career started when she was just 17 years old back in 1999. Williams is the second black woman tennis player to be featured on the box. Althea Gibson, 2001 Gibson became the first black player to win prestigious tennis competitions. USWNT, 2019 It may be a steep price for just a cereal box, but 100% of the proceeds go to organizations that empower young girls in sports. Elinor Smith, 1934 Her Wheaties box appearance made her the first female ever to be featured. Michael Jordan, 1988 Jordan was the seventh athlete to get a feature on the box, and what followed was an 11-year-long partnership. U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team, 1996 Kerri Strug made this iconic final vault with a broken ankle, winning gold for the U.S. Wheaties celebrated their iconic victory by featuring them on the box’s cover. Mary Lou Retton, 1984 In order to win the gold, she needed to get a perfect 10.00 on her final vault and floor routines. Sam Gordon, 2012 She made headlines for being the only girl on her football team in Utah. It inspired other all-girls football leagues to pop up across the U.S. Jesse Owens, 1936 His performance and numerous victories during the 1936 Olympics were a major blow to Adolf Hitler Jesse Owens wasn’t just snubbed at the Olympics. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, 1935 Didrikson was the first female athlete to be featured on a Wheaties box. She was the star at every sport she competed in. Walter Payton, 1986 During his time with the Bears he set the single-game rushing record of 275 yards in 1977 – earning him the league MVP title. Videos

I love the irony a box of Wheaties cereal represents to the sports community. There are so many prestigious awards an athlete can earn during their career, and yet getting their photo on an orange cardboard box filled with plain cornflakes is right up there with earning an MVP title. How could such a lackluster cereal hold such high honor for some of the world’s greatest athletes?

When I wander down the cereal aisle, the orange box is not one that stands out to me amongst all of the sugar-filled options. I remember after the 2012 London Olympics my dad had a Wheaties box with Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps on the cover. It sat on the highest shelf of our pantry and I wasn’t allowed to open it. It was such a bizarre notion to me, that something as a simple as a box of cereal was never meant to be opened.

The campaign for the iconic slogan “Breakfast of Champions” began 85 years ago.

The bland wheat flake finally took off after receiving numerous testimonials from major league baseball stars in the 30’s. It all came down to what you ate if you wanted to be like the professional athletes, and after glowing reviews the cereal was launched into legendary status. Over the course of nearly 90 years, there have been well over 100 talented athletes featured on the box – these are the covers you probably didn’t know about.

Lou Gehrig, 1934

Baseball star Lou Gehrig was the first athlete to be featured on the cereal box. From a modest wheat cereal brand, Wheaties finally took off thanks to testimonials from the baseball star and 46 of the 51 players on the 1939 Major League All-Star team. This was when the cereal was officially re-branded to the classic slogan, The Breakfast of Champions.

On July 4th, 1939, Lou Gehrig gave his famous farewell to baseball speech.

Gehrig was the New York Yankee’s first-basemen, best known as the Iron Horse of baseball for his 2,130 consecutive games-played streak. Just two weeks before his speech, Gehrig was forced to retire from the sport after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, which has been aptly named “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” He died a few years later on June 2nd, 1941 at the age of 37.

Serena Williams, 2019

It’s about damn time Serena Williams got her spot on the orange box! Wheaties had announced earlier this Summer they were featuring the record-breaking tennis player on their box. Even if you don’t follow tennis, there’s no way you’ve never heard her name before.

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Her career started when she was just 17 years old back in 1999.

From there, she won her first Grand Slam title at the ’99 U.S. Open. At the same tournament, the Williams sisters won their doubles event, and later over the years would earn 14 Grand Slam doubles titles.

Serena alone earned a total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles out of a total of 72 career titles. She’s the only known tennis player, man or woman, to earn as many Grand Slam singles titles during the open era.

Williams is the second black woman tennis player to be featured on the box.

She said in an Instagram caption “In 2001, Wheaties paid homage to a true champion and an icon by putting her on the cover of a Wheaties Box. Althea Gibson was the FIRST Black Woman tennis player to be on the box. Today, I am honored to be the second.”

Althea Gibson, 2001

Tennis star Althea Gibson’s career took place during the 1950’s and she eventually joined the women’s professional golf tour starting in 1960. But it wasn’t until nearly 50 years later before her photo graced the orange box. Gibson finally earned her spot on the Wheaties Box back in 2001, just two years before passing away at the age of 76.

Gibson became the first black player to win prestigious tennis competitions.

Due to segregation in the U.S. in the 1950’s, Gibson wasn’t allowed to compete alongside white players. As mentioned in the video above, it wasn’t until fellow tennis player Alice Marble criticized her own sport for not letting a talented tennis player like Althea Gibson to compete. Following the criticism, Gibson became the first black player to be invited to Wimbledon. And she later went on to win the French (’56), Winbledon (’57-’58), and U.S. Open (’57-’58) singles championships.

USWNT, 2019

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team won their fourth World Cup title in July of 2019, and in doing so secured their place on the coveted Wheaties Box. The team is being featured on a limited-edition box that will cost $23 – it’s a nod to the 23 players that make up the team.

It may be a steep price for just a cereal box, but 100% of the proceeds go to organizations that empower young girls in sports.

50% will be going to Girls in the Game, which is an organization that is dedicated to helping young girls find the empowerment they need to find their voice and build their confidence. The remaining 50% is going to the U.S. Soccer Development Fund that aims to educate young girls about the sport and support youth soccer players.

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Elinor Smith, 1934

At the age of 16, back in 1928, Elinor Smith earned national recognition for being the youngest pilot to receive her pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration. One of the Wright brothers, Orville Wright, signed her license. She earned the title “best female pilot” by her peers (including Amelia Earhart) in 1930.

Her Wheaties box appearance made her the first female ever to be featured.

Another first for Smith was back in 1928 when she became the first – and only – pilot to fly under all four New York East River bridges. Flying lessons started at age 10 for Smith, by 15 she performed her first solo flight. Not too long after that she began her record-setting aviation career by flying at 11,889 feet in a Waco 9 aircraft.

Michael Jordan, 1988

The Chicago Bull’s star has the most appearances on the Wheaties box in the history of the cereal – with a whopping total of 18 cover appearances. That’s four more than any other athlete – with Tiger Woods having 14 appearances. His photo was displayed across Wheaties posters, collector cards, and TV ads.

Jordan was the seventh athlete to get a feature on the box, and what followed was an 11-year-long partnership.

Michael Jordan made his professional basketball debut with the Chicago Bulls in 1984. That same year he received the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and was chosen for the All-Star Game after a successful season of scoring an average 28.2 points per game. During the 1986-87 season, he became the first player, since fellow basketball star Wilt Chamberlin, to score more than 3,000 points in a season.

U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team, 1996

Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps, and Kerri Strug were the Olympic gymnasts who earned the nickname “The Magnificent Seven” during the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia. They made history by being the first U.S. women’s gymnastics team to win the gold medal, beating out the favored teams from Russia and Romania.

Kerri Strug made this iconic final vault with a broken ankle, winning gold for the U.S.

For much of the competition, the U.S. was leading second-place Russia by a considerable amount of points. The Mag Seven went into the final event, vault, feeling hopeful of wining the gold for the first time. However, Moceanu fell on both of her vaults, something she’d never done in training. Strug was the last to go, slipping at the end of her first vault. That was when her ankle snapped. She limped her way back to the start of the vault and took off sprinting for her second attempt. She hit the springboard, twisted and turned in the air, and stuck the landing on one foot and a broken ankle, securing the gold medal for her team.

Wheaties celebrated their iconic victory by featuring them on the box’s cover.

Following their victory, The New York Times wrote “until now, [the U.S.] has never had a team of women capture so many hearts, imaginations and a gold medal on the world’s biggest sporting stage.” The seven teenagers stood on the podium to accept their gold medals and essentially turned into celebrities overnight.

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Mary Lou Retton, 1984

At the age of 16, U.S. gymnast Mary Lou Retton made her first and only Olympic appearance at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, CA. She went on to win five medals (one gold, two silver, and two bronze). Her Wheaties box appearance made her the first female athlete to be featured on the cover. She was later featured again on the box in 1999 and 2012.

In order to win the gold, she needed to get a perfect 10.00 on her final vault and floor routines.

Her competitor, Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo, was ahead of Retton by 0.05 points before going into those final events. She performed perfect 10s on both the floor and vault, and as a resultbecame the first female ever in U.S. history to win a gold medal in the individual all-around competition.

Sam Gordon, 2012

Back in 2012, then 9-year-old Sam Gordon was featured on the cover of the Wheaties cereal box. Her feature makes her the first female football player to be seen on the box, but she’s also the youngest person ever to be on the cover. However, her box was a one-of-a-kind version and was never sold in stores.

She made headlines for being the only girl on her football team in Utah.

As seen in the video above, Sam Gordon began going around to middle schools asking girls if they were interested in playing tackle football. An astounding number of hands rose and shortly after in the spring of 2015 there was an already-growing league up and running. The Utah football league started at 50 players, and nearly 4 years later there are almost 400.

It inspired other all-girls football leagues to pop up across the U.S.

During the 2019 Super Bowl, a commercial celebrating the upcoming 100-year anniversary ran during the game. In the ad, pretty much every NFL football legend who was alive was featured. 15-year-old Sam Gordon made a special appearance at the end. It was a well-deserved nod to her accomplishments and to the hopeful future of equality for women in sports.

Jesse Owens, 1936

Olympic Athlete Jesse Owens was the first African American athlete to be featured on the Wheaties cereal box. During the 1936 Berlin Olympic games, Owens won four gold medals in track-and-field events. His world record long jump of 26.4 feet would stand for 25 years following the Olympics.

His performance and numerous victories during the 1936 Olympics were a major blow to Adolf Hitler

The Nazi Leader was in attendance and had intended to use the Games as demonstration for his belief of Aryan superiority. Aside from Owens’ legendary gold-medal performances, the biggest tale of the Games was the “snub.” It was when Hitler refused to shake hands with Owens because the athlete was black. The following day Hitler made the announcement that he would not be shaking the hands of any gold medalists.

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Jesse Owens wasn’t just snubbed at the Olympics.

Fans from Berlin hailed Owens as a hero during the games. However, when Owens returned home, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to meet and congratulate him, as was common for champions. Owens was finally recognized for his Olympic accomplishments exactly 40 years later, when U.S. President Gerald Ford awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Four years later, in 1980, he passed away from lung cancer at the age of 67. He made another cover appearance on the cereal box in 2003.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias, 1935

Babe Dirikson was born Mildred Didrikson Zaharias, she earned the nickname “Babe” after hitting five homeruns in a single baseball game during her childhood. She got a spot on the Wheaties box in 1935, however she wasn’t on the box’s cover. She was only featured on the back, but it was still a first for the cereal brand.

Didrikson was the first female athlete to be featured on a Wheaties box.

She was voted the best female athlete of the first half of the century for her outstanding skills in basketball, baseball, track-and-field, and golf. Even though Didrikson qualified for six events, women at that time were only allowed to enter in three events at the Olympics. However, she ended up breaking four world records during her appearance at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California.

She was the star at every sport she competed in.

Seen in the video above is her record-breaking javelin throw of 143 feet, 4 inches. She also won the 80-meter hurdles event, breaking the previous world record twice. Her high jump was disallowed, even though she made the world record jump. After the Olympics, she turned to golf and was deemed the greatest woman golfer of all time by 1940.

Walter Payton, 1986

Walter Payton was considered one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL. He joined the NFL’s Chicago Bears team in 1975 and spent 13 years playing for them. In 1986, just a year before his retirement from the sport, Payton was featured on the Wheaties box, making him the first NFL player to make an appearance.

During his time with the Bears he set the single-game rushing record of 275 yards in 1977 – earning him the league MVP title.

The rush occurred during a game against the Minnesota Vikings, all the while Payton had a 102 degree fever and the flu. He also scored the only touchdown during that game, giving the Bears a 10-7 victory. By the end of his career, he had set a new rushing record of 12,400 yards, besting Jim Brown’s record of 12,312 yards.

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