EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — For almost his entire adult life, George Toma has watched the Kansas City Chiefs up close, but his roots are in Northeastern Pennsylvania where he honed his skills to become known as the “Sod God”.
Toma has never missed a Super Bowl, and as he told Eyewitness News this past summer, it’s thanks to his strong foundation.
Toma has seen it all, from Super Bowls to World Series, from Olympic Games to the World Cup. But along the way, the legendary groundskeeper known as the “Sodfather” never forgot where he’s from.
“I’m in Kansas City for 67 years now. But where I’m from, where’s my hometown, it’s Edwardsville, PA, Wilkes-Barre, PA, Wyoming Valley, the valley with a heart,” described Toma.
This past weekend, Toma was back in town for his induction into the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame. He’s also part of the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers Hall of Fame, the Royals Hall of Fame, and has been honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For decades, Toma was in charge of the sports complex in Kansas City.
“We had the best playing field in baseball, the best in football, soccer. And we didn’t spend a thousand dollars a year on that field. We never re-sodded or anything. It was just hard work from the coal mines here in Pennsylvania,” recalled Toma.
Toma is the son of a coal miner, and at age 12, he began his career in grounds keeping at Artillery Park in Wilkes-Barre. From there, he quickly became one of the best in the business.
“Three little words. You gotta do the job, and then some. And that extra distinguishes the mediocre from the great,” stated Toma.
And there are none greater than George Toma. His reputation earned him the responsibility of leading the grounds crew for Super Bowl I in 1967, and has worked all 56 games since. Through all his success, Toma did his job with one simple rule in mind.
“You have to work for the players. Like I mention and I preach, the cheapest insurance for an athlete from preschool all the way to the NFL and MLB, is a good safe playing field,” said Toma.
Something Toma learned, from growing up in NEPA:
“If it wasn’t for the people here in Edwardsville and the people at Artillery Park and people helping me here, I wouldn’t be here today in a way,” said Toma.