Meet the Man Who Has Attended Every Super Bowl Since 1967
There are few people who can say they have been to every NFL Super Bowl in history, and even fewer who can say they have worked at each game since the first one kicked off 47 years ago. However, there is at least one man that can attest to both of these claims—George Toma.
Italian American George Toma has carved out an unparalleled career in the world of sports turf. In his 66 years (and counting) in the business he has worked for Major League Baseball, World Cup Soccer, the 1984 and 1996 Summer Olympics, not to mention the National Football League where he has overseen field preparation for every Super Bowl.
He has also lent his expertise to countless field renovations and installations in countries all over the world. Undoubtedly, he is the most well-known groundskeeper in all of professional sports.
George Toma was born in 1929 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He was ten years old when his father passed away, so in order to help support his family, he started working. He took a job on the grounds crew at Artillery Park for the Wilkes- Barre Barons, a Class A Eastern League baseball team. By 1946 had had worked his way up to Head Groundskeeper, but in 1950 he was drafted into the military and served two years in Korea.
His big break came in 1957, when he took a job with the Major League Kansas City Athletics. Under his direction, the field in Kansas City thrived, going from being known as one of the worst to consistently being named one of the best fields in professional sports.
In 1963, when the Dallas Texans football team relocated to town, he became their Head Groundskeeper as well. The Kansas City Chiefs, as they were now known, created an entirely different set of challenges for Toma, because as he put it, “baseball and soccer are played on top of turf, but football is played in it.”
Toma continued to pull double duty, overseeing professional football and baseball year round, all while maintaining highly-regarded playing surfaces in both sports. His work didn’t stop there though, as his fields hosted soccer to lacrosse games, not to mention a few concerts a year. Through it all, Toma’s reputation steadily grew. Even world-renowned soccer star Pele gushed that Toma’s field was one of the best surfaces he had ever played on.
In the late 1960s, the two rival professional football leagues, the AFL and the NFL merged into one. Their first ever title game needed to be a spectacle with a field to match, for it would be on television. For this task, owners charged Toma and his crew with the job of preparing the turf at the Los Angeles Coliseum. On January 15, 1967, the championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Toma’s own Chiefs was played. Dubbed the “Super Bowl” by Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt, ice skating rink paint was used for each team’s name and logo in the end zones and Toma himself came up with the idea for using a stencil to paint a football with a crown at midfield. The turf received rave reviews not only from the players, but also for how it looked on television. The rest is, as they say, history. Toma has worked every Super Bowl since.
Toma retired in 1999, yet he never stopped working. He has assisted sports complexes across the country, whether it be preparing the field for the Senior Bowl in Alabama, or consulting for the Atlantic Coast Conference on their baseball fields.
As for his marquee event, the Super Bowl, Toma and his team normally spend about four to six weeks on site leading up to the game. Once finished, he heads to Hawaii, making sure that Aloha Stadium is ready for the Pro Bowl.
A founding member of the Sport Turf Managers Association (STMA), Toma has a great affection for his chosen profession.
In 2012, Toma was inducted into the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame as well as the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers Hall of Fame as one of its charter members.
George Toma will celebrate his 85th birthday on February 2, 2014—the day of NFL Super Bowl XLVIII.