George Toma, the Royals longtime groundskeeper and a field-tending legend will be inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame during a pregame ceremony on August 31, the team announced today. Toma started his Kansas City career in 1957, caring for the field at the old Municipal Stadium at 22nd Street and Brooklyn when the Athletics played there. He will be the 25th member of the hall.
He quickly became known worldwide for his ability to rehab fields and keep both turf and grass in peak shape. He worked for the Chiefs, led crews at several Super Bowls and Pro Bowls during his career. Earlier this year he was one of two inaugural members of the MLB Groundskeeper Association Hall of Fame.
If you want to get a sense of his personality, check out this 1982 Sports Illustrated profile about Toma. It opens with Toma at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium where he's examining the field following the Pro Bowl. And then there's this glorious, cranky soliloquy:
"Groundkeeping in many places has hit the bottom of the barrel," he says. "It's not like 20 or 30 years ago. A lot of ground crews don't have pride."
Why is that?
"A groundkeeper's dirt," says Toma, who invariably leaves the "s" out of his-profession. "If someone in the front office needs a new typewriter, fine, but if the groundkeeper needs a new grass cutter, he can't get it. Until something happens!" He begins jabbing a forefinger in the air. "The owners have a doubleheader sold out and it's raining. They get jumpy. Suddenly they want to do anything. They'll rent a helicopter at $250 or $300 an hour to dry off the field! But they won't spend money on the sunny day for good drainage."
Toma stares at the paint swirling around his feet. "The groundkeeper," he repeats, "is the dirt of the organization."