This Groundskeeper Has Worked Every Super Bowl. He Turns 91 On Sunday George Toma is the Sod Father, the NFL's most famous groundskeeper. He will be working his 54th Super Bowl AND celebrating his 91st birthday on Sunday.
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This Groundskeeper Has Worked Every Super Bowl. He Turns 91 On Sunday

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This Groundskeeper Has Worked Every Super Bowl. He Turns 91 On Sunday

This Groundskeeper Has Worked Every Super Bowl. He Turns 91 On Sunday

This Groundskeeper Has Worked Every Super Bowl. He Turns 91 On Sunday

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George Toma is the Sod Father, the NFL's most famous groundskeeper. He will be working his 54th Super Bowl AND celebrating his 91st birthday on Sunday.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When San Francisco and Kansas City kick off in tomorrow's Super Bowl, they'll compete on a field prepped by the greatest groundskeeper in the history of sports - that's according to the NFL and others. A man who's worked every single Super Bowl and earned nicknames like the Nitty-Gritty Dirt Man and the Sod Father. His real name is George Toma, and his job...

GEORGE TOMA: We're here to help to have good grass, so we give the players a safe playing field and give the fans in the stands and on TV a field of beauty.

MONTAGNE: That is George Toma, who is 90 years old.

TOMA: And Sunday, I'll be 91 years old.

MONTAGNE: Of course, a birthday on Super Bowl Sunday is even more special considering his home club, Kansas City, is back in the big game for the first time in a half century. George Toma was on hand in 1967 for Super Bowl 1, and as the game's prestige grew, so, too, did complications for the groundskeeper.

TOMA: Thousands of kids jumping up and 35 pieces of stage coming out, and some of them weigh as much as 8,000 pounds.

MONTAGNE: And as far as maintaining a pitch-perfect pitch for the players, that is both an art and a science, says Trevor Vance.

TREVOR VANCE: I'm a senior director of grounds and landscaping for the Kansas City Royals.

MONTAGNE: Vance got his sod-laying start under the master.

VANCE: People can paint a football field, or people can really paint a football field with colors and everything.

MONTAGNE: And Vance says George Toma can really paint, not just the grid lines but bright logos in the end zones and on 50-yard lines. Born in 1929, Toma got his start at 12 years old working for a Class A baseball club in Pennsylvania. And after the Korean War, he landed in Kansas City, where Trevor Vance joined his grounds crew.

VANCE: And we all started such a young age that George would always make sure on Friday he'd come in and really chew our butts really good saying, you know, you better behave yourselves this weekend. I need you to work Monday. So he really helped us grow up.

MONTAGNE: And those Kansas City ties mean Toma is rooting for the Chiefs tomorrow.

TOMA: But I have a lot of respect for the 49ers.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: ...About the weather. And here's the way it shapes up...

MONTAGNE: Oh, the 49ers. The weather really mattered back in 1982 when Toma was at San Francisco's Candlestick Park for one big playoff game.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Clear and mild after 6 1/2 inches of rain earlier in the week...

TOMA: We had to pump water out, and this one lady was so outstanding.

MONTAGNE: A lady with a lot of clout in San Francisco who moved heaven and earth to make sure the field was re-sodded and ready.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Third and three...

MONTAGNE: For a game that would feature a fourth-quarter play now known simply as The Catch.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Montana looking, looking, throwing in the end zone. Caught it. Dwight Clark.

MONTAGNE: That would be Joe Montana throwing to Dwight Clark.

TOMA: Sportswriters and casters said that was the most artistic play they've seen in ages. And they said it was on a great playing field.

MONTAGNE: A great playing field that George Toma takes no credit for.

TOMA: That credit goes to the woman that was down there in her rain hat, her trench coat. And that lady was Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

MONTAGNE: George Toma has saved countless fields, but his good friend Trevor Vance says the Sod Father's own lawn - well...

VANCE: George manages to kill his yard every year.

TOMA: That's true because I experimented with different grasses, different fertilizers, things like that. Like my wife tells me, there's no money in the world that can pay me to do what I do because it's what I love to do.

MONTAGNE: And here's an early happy birthday to the Sod Father.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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