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Milking It: Cap'n Crunch's Home Run Crunch

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Cap'n Crunch's Home Run Crunch Quaker Oats Rating: Three and a half spoons out of four

Cereal description: Home Run Crunch is dominated by the same corn-and-oat pieces that have been the foundation of original Cap'n Crunch since time immemorial -- yellowish squares that do unimaginable mayhem to the roofs of mouths but taste so good that no one would even think of complaining. They're supplemented by oversized red balls -- a.k.a. crunch berries -- and red and blue torpedoes masquerading as bats. They're so fat along the barrel that they look as if Barry Bonds injected them with hickory growth hormone.

Box description: The "Limited Edition" packaging is distinguished by plenty of horsehide-happy imagery. The main logo is designed to resemble a stadium scoreboard, complete with fireworks-like flashes -- and the whole thing is set against a red, white and blue banner. Cue the National Anthem. In the foreground, an absurdly enthusiastic Cap'n, wearing a batting helmet featuring a large yellow "C" and, inexplicably, his eyebrows, swings a normally proportioned bat at a baseball featuring the phrase "CRUNCH-A-TIZE ME CAP'N" and a registered-trademark symbol, apparently because so many other companies would love to trade in their tired slogans for "CRUNCH-A-TIZE ME CAP'N." (I'm talking about you, Viagra.) Opposite the side panel featuring nutrition information is a pictorial roster of Cap's four other "GREAT FLAVORS!," including Crunch Berries, Peanut Butter Crunch and Choco Crunch -- the latter being the one member of the team that should spend the most time on the bench. The back, for its part, is baseball-centric, with Cap'n declaring, "Baseball is All American Fun!" The attached word scramble and invitation to find and count all fifty stars on the box are less so. But compensation is offered by Horatio Crunch's 1963 rookie baseball card, from the days when he swung for the Crunch Island Crunchers. Believe it or not, he only played 98 games that year, yet batted a robust .350. Who the hell was the manager on that squad? Tony the Tiger?

Taste: The original Home Run Crunch was different from the current version; back in 1994, it included marshmallows. Now, of course, this is essentially Crunch Berries with a few different shapes thrown in for variety's sake. But this lack of originality is the only thing that prevents the delectable combo from achieving the coveted four-spoon rating. My three kids, ages fifteen through nineteen, offer proof. I bought a box of Home Run Crunch a couple of months ago, thinking I'd have it all to myself. However, they devoured it before I could eat more than a single bowl -- and they polished off a second box even more quickly. Then several weeks went by before I could find more. So when I finally discovered new stock, I purchased three boxes at the same time -- and at this writing, one's completely gone and a second is down to little more than crumbs. Kid tested, parent approved.

Conclusion: Cap'n Crunch is nowhere near retiring, but he already deserves enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. -- Michael Roberts

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