In addition to mixing up the original batch of Gatorade, University of Florida nephrologist Robert Cade is well-known among friends and colleagues for mixing potions that have a less salubrious effect. "On Friday afternoons I conducted what we'd call the Hepat-o-Renal [i.e., liver-kidney] Symposium," says Cade, 73, of the informal gatherings of students, professors, interns and residents. "I would talk about something scientific for about 30 minutes. Then we would have cocktails."
Cade would mix daiquiris, mint juleps and whiskey sours, gladly playing the role of the absinthe-minded professor. One of these symposiums went quite late. The following morning Cade awoke on his living room floor with a tremendous pain in his side. "That," diagnosed his nine-year-old daughter, Martha, "must be where Mommy kicked you last night."
In a more upright and upstanding pursuit, Cade began devising his famous sports drink in response to a question posed by former Gators offensive tackle Dwayne Douglas in 1965. Dana Shires, a research fellow working under Cade, was having lunch with Douglas, who was the university hospital's chief of security and an assistant coach for Florida's freshman football team, when Douglas asked why players didn't pee during practice. Spurred by this query, Cade, Shires and the two other postdoctoral fellows in the nephrology lab, Jim Free and Alex de Quesada, began to study dehydration during physical exertion. That work resulted in their quest to produce a beverage that would rapidly replenish the body with the sodium, sugar and water it expends during strenuous exercise. After a month of tinkering, Gatorade, originally dubbed Cade's Cola, debuted at Florida Field on a balmy afternoon in October 1965 during a scrimmage between Florida's freshman and B teams. The next day Cade and Shires served Gatorade to the varsity during their game with LSU.
"Larry Gagner, a tackle, said, 'This stuff tastes like piss.' " says Cade. "Then he poured the rest of it over his head." (Historians, take note: the first Gatorade shower.) "Next, safety Bruce Bennett sipped it. Then he gulped it. 'Larry,' said Bennett, 'this doesn't taste like piss to me.' "
Although the performance of the players seemed to be a strong endorsement of Cade & Co.'s sports drink, Gagner's assessment intrigued Cade. "None of us had tasted urine," says Cade, who persuaded Shires to join him in a tasting. "We wee-weed in a cup and dabbed a finger. You know what? There's a significant difference in flavor."
Gatorade now comes in 19 flavors and commands 83% of the sports-drink market, which, after all, it created. Annual gross sales of the drink, which is now produced by Quaker Oats, are approximately $2.3 billion. Each year Cade and his team share a hefty royalty payment, and the university, where the research was done, receives in excess of $6 million annually. The four physicians regard their elixir as nothing less than a blessed mixing. Cade and his wife, Mary (who first suggested adding lemon juice for flavoring), award 30 college scholarships each year and have endowed a professorial chair at Florida.
Shires, 68, is CEO of the LifeLink Foundation, a Tampa-based organ transplant center that he cofounded in 1982 with de Quesada, 68. Each year their staff of 21 doctors performs more than 300 heart, kidney, liver and pancreas transplants, often to indigent patients. "We've done a lot of good things for people with the [ Gatorade] money, and we're grateful for that," says Shires. "But perhaps the most important thing that we did was alert people to the necessity of rehydrating in the midst of exercise."
That can be done with Gatorade. Or water. Or, well.... "The first full season we served Gatorade to the Florida football team was 1966," Cade says. "That was the year [quarterback and now Gators coach] Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy" You'd be tempted to give Gatorade partial credit for Spurrier's superior play except that the savvy signal-caller never drank it during games. "He drank, well, I almost hesitate to tell you," says Cade. "He drank Coca-Cola."