In the age of Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, and the Gas House Gang, no one in baseball could match the wild unpredictability of Cletus Elwood “Boots” Poffenberger. Called up to the Detroit Tigers in 1937, Boots defeated Lefty Grove in his debut, compiled an impressive 10-5 record as a rookie, and seemed destined for stardom.
But “The Baron,” as he was also known, was just too eccentric to last. After one antic too many, Boots was booted to Brooklyn and then out of the Big Time altogether. Undaunted, Boots embarked on a remarkable odyssey that took him across baseball’s landscape---through the minors, the semi-pros, and Marine Corps teams during World War II.
Despite spending only parts of three seasons with Detroit and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boots Poffenberger holds the major league record for funny stories per innings pitched.
The Dodgers, Down, and Out
It All Comes Undone
Boots Poffenberger, U.S.M.C.
Same Old Boots
The Legacy of Boots Poffenberger
Boots Being Boots
The Breakfast of Champions
Perhaps the most famous tale concerning Boots Poffenberger is the “Breakfast of Champions” story. Boots appeared in a magazine ad for Wheaties early in 1938 and the cereal company asked him to do a live radio spot from the lobby of the hotel in which he lived in Detroit. The announcer told Boots that he would ask what he was having for breakfast and, of course, Boots was to reply, “The breakfast of champions: Wheaties!” When the announcer asked Boots what he was having that morning, Boots replied, “The breakfast of champions! A beer and a steak.”
Or at least that’s how the most prominent version of the story goes. Boots, who was known for both confirming and denying the same story, later said that the tale was false, stating “Anybody who knows me knows that isn’t true. I’d either be icing a case of beer in the bathtub or be out at a bar.”
Lose Weight the Boots Poffenberger Way
Boots reported to the Tigers’ spring training camp in 1939 some 20 pounds overweight. No matter how hard he worked, the weight would not come off and finally Detroit’s management confronted the stocky right-hander as to why. It was simple, explained Boots: The Tigers were making him get up at 8:00 a.m. which meant that he had to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, whereas if they would let him sleep until 1:00 p.m. as he desired, he would only require one meal. Boots was soon traded to Brooklyn.