Is the Breakfast of Champions swordfish with artichoke, or perhaps fried shrimp with mint tea? Edwin Shrake reports this week that it can be if you happen to be golf champion Billy Casper; and the Lunch of Champions and Dinner of Champions is bizarre, too (page 22). But this hardly makes Casper unique, for we have long noticed that the nutritional concerns and appetites of athletes can be distinctive.
Among golfers, for example, Gary Player is a health faddist. He, like Casper, believes that what he eats significantly affects his strength and therefore his athletic success. His doctor has just warned him that if he does not stop stuffing himself with certain nature foods he will get uremic poisoning. Player pales at the sight of Jack Nicklaus eating, but many a strongman would, for Jack can down six dozen oysters at a sitting. Arnold Palmer is something else again. Two weeks ago in San Francisco he sent his hamburger back to the kitchen three times to get it ultrawell-done, which is what suits his millionaire's taste.
To balance the burned burger, San Francisco must also cope with 49ers Tackle Bob St. Clair, who orders his beef and liver raw. He did it first as a publicity gag and says, "Now I really like the raw taste." We're glad, and he helps enhance football's culinary image, which needs enhancing. Team doctors say football players average about 6,000 calories a day—twice the normal amount—but they don't do it with much elegance. San Diego's Ernie Ladd will eat 20 eggs for breakfast, Chicago's Doug Atkins has consumed 50 pieces of fried chicken at a meal and the Kansas City Chiefs are still recovering from the day the bosses took Tackle Alphonse Dotson to lunch. He ate two corned beef and cheese sandwiches, a large shrimp salad, a platter of fried onions, a grilled cheese sandwich, three glasses of milk, an entire apple strudel and three ice-cream cones. When a pro football coach talks about his lean and hungry team, forget it. One worthy exception is Detroit's Joe Don Looney, who is said to subsist on wheat germ, sunflower seeds, tequila and beer. Joe Don now has a dog, which is thriving on much the same diet.
Comparatively speaking, baseball players are gastronomic bores—theirs is a steak-house league—and so are basketball personalities, though there is always Celtic Coach Red Auerbach, who has never eaten an egg in his life. His breakfasts are leftover lo mein, or sometimes cream puffs and Coke.
There are other individualists: Jockey Johnny Rotz, in a profession where most people don't eat at all, downing two steaks and 10 egg sandwiches at one time; Murray Rose swimming his way to world records on a seaweed diet; Peter Snell, carrying his own pot of tea into a restaurant for fear that orange pekoe might slow him down a second; Prizefighter Laszlo Papp, insisting that he train at home in Hungary because nowhere else can he get the hot paprika that gives him strength. And finally there is Peggy Fleming (page 15), who just last week won the U.S. Figure Skating Championship on a macaroni diet.
Now pass the Wheaties, please.
NICKLAUS, GOLF'S BEST OYSTERMAN