It may have been the news earlier in the week about declining breakfast cereal sales, and impending layoffs at Kellogg, once an important purveyor of health and wellness. Wheaties never did much for me, although I did buy a box with Peter Jacobson on the cover, on a swing through Portland – a trivia question answer. Gramps always started his day with a bowl of Corn Flakes, and there were various childhood dalliances with Alpha-Bits, Cap’n Crunch and even Sugar Pops before Sugar Bear and the name itself went in for makeovers.
Whatever the reason, I confess to a continuing interest in breakfast, for myself, and with those renowned for peak performance.
History is indebted to Mark James, once the l’enfant terrible of modern British golf, later a wry and capable Ryder Cup captain. In his excellent recap of the Brookline Ryder Cup, Inside the Bear Pit, ‘Jesse’ James shares this remarkable tidbit about the amazing Miguel Angel Jimenez, known affectionately for his portly and unassuming demeanor as the Mechanic. James is discussing the perils of organizing men of various nationalities and cultural identities and, oddly enough, comes around to the subject of feeding time, specifically breakfast.
Come breakfast on Wednesday,” James writes, “the team’s eating habits were making themselves known. We had sent somebody out to get olive oil for Mechanico, because he was rather partial to a cereal bowl of boiled eggs swimming in a one-inch pool of the stuff. There was a contented look on his face as he tucked in.”
[With a nod to the Mediterranean diet from the Most Interesting Man.]
Then we learn about Jarmo Sandelin, an engaging minor character, from the golfing hotbed of Finland. As I recall at the press conferences, he provided his team with moments of welcome levity, although I don’t believe he ever appeared in a match.
Another happy bunny was Jarmo, who ordered off the menu and got his dream breakfast for the first time, a gigantic bowl of pasta with lumps of chicken in it (the only things missing were the feathers) smothered in tomato sauce. He downed the lot, and two and a half hours later he was asking for a sandwich to be sent out onto the course. He must have hollow legs because he only has a 24-inch waist and I had absolutely no idea where he was putting it.
Fast forward: Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia, described by one suitably biased long time observer friend as “The best player pound for pound in baseball” has, coincidentally, also shared his daily breakfast ritual.
I eat the same breakfast every day,” Pedroia, known to as teammates as Pedey, dishes in Born to Play (My Life in the Game). “I have two eggs, two protein waffles, two pieces of bacon, and two oranges. I have a glass of orange juice with that. I don’t exactly know why I do that – the “two of each thing” deal doesn’t have anything to do with anything. It’s just how much I eat. It’s not superstitious – eating two of each thing isn’t going to make me get two hits in the game.”
[I found it interesting that Pedroia’s first big league manager, Terry Francona, shared this first impression of the future superstar, describing him as “kind of fat, short and dumpy.” Must’ve been the daily dose of those protein waffles.]
To which we add, a guaranteed two hits, you say? Serve me up a plate of “The Full Jarmo” And a protein waffle chaser.
For those scoring at home, an iconoclastic variation on theme from none other than The Georgia Peach in his prime, albeit in the off-season. Noted F.C. Lane in 1916:
If he hasn’t anything particular in mind he gets up at 8 o’clock, or later. Eating cuts no great figure in the Cobb establishment. Ty is so thoroughly a ball player, with the peculiarities of the craft, that he carries the summer habit of two meals a day right through the winter as well. If the fiery Ty needs only two meals when he is beating out lean bunts by lightening speed or playing a dazzling game in the field why should he need more in the season of rest?
And, a final nod to Kirk Gibson, once favorably compared to the young Mickey Mantle, who gives the most important meal of the deal a nod in a wide-ranging conversation with the New York Times Joe Durso, back in 1982, excerpted in The Detroit Tigers Reader, The University of Michigan Press, 2005:
I’m a very competitive person. If you dare me to do something, I’ll prove you wrong. I guess I got it from my father. He drilled me. When I woke up, he had a good breakfast on the table. When I came home from school, he was waiting to play basketball. When I was down the road, he’d call me: ‘time to play catch.’ I didn’t always like it, but I did it.