Part 1 in a Series on a Groundskeeping Legend

In the world of professional sports groundskeeping, George Toma needs no introduction. He’s prepped the field for every Super Bowl since it began in 1967. He also spent much of his career as the head groundskeeper for the Kansas City Royals (preceded by the Kansas City Athletics) and the Kansas City Chiefs. And that’s not even scratching the surface on all the professional sports fields that have seen his magic touch over the last 75 years, from the FIFA World Cup to the 1984 and 1996 Summer Olympics.


Toma has had an amazing career — a story far too big to tell here. This is just a glimpse at a few things you may not know about this coal miner’s son from Pennsylvania who has become one of the most respected groundskeepers in America.

  1. He started groundskeeping at age 12. Toma was only 10 years old when his father passed away and he had to get a job to help his family make ends meet. After working on several farms, he got his big break at age 12. His neighbor was the head groundskeeper for the Wilkes-Barre Barons, an Eastern League farm club for the Cleveland Indians. Toma started working with him for $25 a month, and at age 16, he took on head groundskeeper duties when his neighbor was made the trainer for the team.
  2. He’s a military veteran. Toma fought in the Korean War from 1950 to 1952.
  3. He chose Kansas City over Denver. After working for the Wilkes-Barre expansion team in Detroit and following a AAA team from Buffalo, New York to Charleston, West Virginia, Toma was offered jobs in Kansas City and Denver in 1957. Denver’s field was beautiful; Kansas City’s was mostly weeds. So Toma called his mentor, Emil Bossard (head groundskeeper for the Cleveland Indians), for advice. “He said, ‘George, don’t go to Kansas City. The field is bad. In the springtime, the weather will flood you out, and in the summertime, it’s so hot, it’ll bake you out,’” Toma remembers. “I thought it over and I said, well, I’ll go to Kansas City because if I mess it up, nobody would ever know it!”
  4. He only sodded Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium once in 15 years. When Toma started working at Municipal Stadium, three professional sports were played on the same field: baseball, football and soccer. It even hosted events like the Beatles concert in 1964. Through it all, Toma consistently maintained the field with pre-germinated seed, no automatic irrigation and 1,500 feet of 1-inch hose. The only time he put down sod there was the year the Kansas City Athletics moved to Oakland, Calif., leaving the city without a professional baseball team.
  5. He’s in six Halls of Fame. Toma was inducted into the International Sports Science Hall of Fame in 1995, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers Hall of Fame in 2012, and the Kansas City Royals Baseball Club Hall of Fame in 2012. In addition, he was just inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

He also jokes that he’s in the “fanny chewers’ hall of fame” because he’s not afraid to tell it like it is. “Sometimes groundskeepers think I give them hell. But I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell,” he says.


  1. He still mows his own lawn. Toma says he’s used a Toro mower from day one, and that all his Toro mowers are decorated with Super Bowl stickers. “I used to cut eight of my neighbors’ yards too,” he says. “They’d want to pay me, but that’s my exercise.”
  2. He’s been pretty busy for a retired guy. “I retired in 1999 and for the next 13 years, I wasn’t home 45 days a year,” Toma recalls. In addition to working on various fields for the NFL, he stayed on to help in Kansas City for a few years. He’s also worked on the fields at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., for the Minnesota Twins’ spring training season every year for the last 16 years. He’s been on hand for the last two World Series in Kansas City, too. (Of course, he hasn’t missed a single Super Bowl, either.)
  3. His 32-year-old son has been to 33 Super Bowls. Toma remembers his youngest son, Ryan, being carried around the field at just six months old by former Miss America and sportscaster Phyllis George.
  4. No challenge has kept him from having the field ready for the big game. Toma has seen the NFL logo worn off one field by last-minute halftime show rehearsals. (Don’t ask how he got new sod after 6 p.m. the night before!) Another field was sucked nearly dry when pumps were accidentally left on all night, overcompensating for the day’s rain. No matter what the challenge, Toma and his crew have worked all night and come up with some creative solutions to make sure the field always looks perfect at game time.Toma1_Images500x333-2
  5. He never forgets his Toro dealer. Toma currently works with Young’s K.C. Mower Center in Kansas City. “They take good care of me,” he says. “They have a little place on the wall for me with my pictures and things. I bring them something whenever I come back from the Super Bowl or spring training with the Twins.”

In addition to all of this, Toma is quick to acknowledge all the people who have worked with him over the years, including longtime Toro chief agronomist Doc Watson, as well as the people (including many from Toro) who have worked on his Super Bowl crews each year. He even remembers the students who have been selected for Toro’s Super Bowl Sports Turfgrass Training Program each year.


“When I went over to Israel in 1997 to build a field for the Maccabiah Games, I came back with a proverb from the Talmud: Every blade of grass has an angel bending over it whispering, ‘Grow, grow, grow,’” Toma says. “I tell people I’m like a blade of grass because I have so many people who have helped me. And yes, all their fingerprints are on all my awards – especially Dr. Watson.”

Super Bowl is a registered trademark of the NFL, FIFA World Cup is a registered trademark of FIFA, Olympics is a registered trademark of the International Olympic Committee, and World Series is a trademark of Major League Baseball.