How Wheaties Helped Launch Ronald Reagan's Acting Career

Known as "the breakfast of champions," Wheaties has long been associated with the celebrities of the athletic world. According to General Mills, manufacturer of the whole-grain cereal, the very first actual person to appear on a Wheaties box was New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig in 1934, and by 1939, 46 of the 51 baseball players who had been selected for the All-Star Game that year endorsed the cereal. Over the years, more than 850 top athletes have appeared on the cover of the "iconic orange box," according to FiveThirtyEight.

Besides putting top athletes on its box, Wheaties had another early connection with sports — General Mills owned a radio station in Minneapolis and would broadcast games played by the local minor league baseball team in exchange for advertising space on a billboard at the stadium, explains Secure Your Trademark. Wheaties-sponsored baseball broadcasts were very popular in the 1930s, reaching 95 radio stations across the country at one point, according to Gold Country Media. One such radio station was WHO Radio in Des Moines, Iowa, who had a chief sports announcer by the name of Ronald Reagan (via CBS News).

Wheaties sent Ronald Reagan to California

In 1937, a contest was held to find the most popular announcer from all the radio stations that Wheaties sponsored across the country, with the winner earning a trip to the Cub's spring training camp in California that year — a contest that Ronald Regan would end up winning, explains the Daily Press. In addition to visiting the Cubs' spring training camp during that trip to California in 1937, Reagan scheduled a screen test with Warner Bros., and ended up securing a seven-year contract (via the LA Times), kicking off his acting career.

Reagan's first starring role was later that same year, where he played, appropriately enough, a radio reporter in "Love is on the Air," according to Turner Classic Movies. Over the course of the next two decades, Reagan would appear in 53 films in total, before turning his attention to politics (via The White House). Reagan was elected the Governor of California in 1966 and 1970. And in 1980, he was elected the 40th President of the United States, a position he would hold for two terms. And it all started with a little baseball play-by-play for Wheaties.