Without question the longtime Kansas City A’s, Chiefs and Royals groundskeeper was the gold standard among groundskeepers in Major League Baseball and the National Football League. The 80-something Toma started as groundskeeper for major league baseball in Kansas City in 1957, when the Athletics were playing at Municipal Stadium at 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue.
Toma’s also renown for his decades of duty tending to Super Bowl fields and sporting events worldwide.
So it comes as little surprise that in a sports short in today’s Star we learn he’s been inducted into the Major League Baseball Groundskeeper Hall of Fame.
Hold it right there…
The Major League Baseball Groundskeeper Hall of Fame – who’s ever heard of that?
"I tell ya, I’ve never heard of it before," says MLB communications head Mike Teevan. "I don’t think officially it’s a part of Major League Baseball."
Naturally, the Star skipped over that tiny detail, leaving to reader’s imagination whether such a stately pleasure dome actually exists, housing marble busts and bronze statues of grass growers past and present astride lawnmowers from days gone by.
And frankly, outside of Toma, who really ever heard of sod sultans such as deceased Milwaukee Brewers groundskeeper Gary VandenBerg, for whom Toma’s trophy was named?
Incidentally VanderBerg, who died in October at age 59, only started with the Brewers in 1981, 24 years into Toma’s career in KC. Aside from being "beloved" in Milwaukee and winning several awards, VandenBerg’s bio pales in comparison to Toma’s.
So yes, it’s most excellent that Toma was awarded this distinction. But it should also have been noted in the reporting that prior to his selection, there was no groundskeeper hall of fame and that he and the dude who were installed this week are the one and only people in this yet brand new, if imaginary HOF.
And to be fair, that Toma was selected by a small, self-appointed committee of five baseball execs, two of whom are members of the Kansas City Royals organization.
It’s also worth noting that outside of players, managers, baseball executives and umpires, there are no inductees in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. That according to NBHOF communications director Craig Muder.
"There are awards winner," Muder says. "But they are not inductees."
None of whom are groundskeeper, btw.