George Toma, doin' work.
The following is a guest post by Clam Simmons, a librarian living in New England. Clam is not my pen name or persona. Clam is clam, a venerable Royals historian of the old school. Clam is on twitter @orangehunchback. He recently contacted me about writing a series of pieces about the 1994 Royals. These are their stories.
Catching up with the 1994 Royals: Part 9 George Toma
A lot of people think that Nitty Gritty Dirt Man was Royals Legend George Toma's first step into literature. It wasn't. It wasn't even his first memoir. In November 1993 George Toma published Get Low:How To Put Your Ears, Nose and Eyes On The Ground One Day At A Time. Unsurprisingly, it gave the Royals a huge edge in the off-season. The book attracted free agents wanting to connect with the unorthodox groundskeeper who connected to the "surface needs" of Kauffman Stadium. Some have said that the Royals were only able to sign Royals Legends Dave Henderson and Vince Coleman because the two were hardcore turf geeks. I recently borrowed Felix Jose's bike and met up with Mr. Toma at Humdinger's on Ninth Street.When I got there Mr. Toma made it clear he did not want to be interviewed indoors so he gave me seven dollars and told me to bring back a hot sauce and fried egg sandwich. I interviewed George Toma in the back of his personal John Deere Gator.
CS: When I say the name Vince Coleman to you, out loud, what do you hear me say?
GT: That's not a very good question. Do you mean, what do I think about when I hear the name Vince Coleman?
CS: Thank you. Yes.
GT: It's January 1994 and I'm at the ballpark sniffing the surface for calcium deposits and this guy jumps on the ground right next to me.
GT: Yes. He wants me to sign his copy of my book. I signed it and I thought he would buzz off.
CS: He didn't, did he?
GT: No. He followed me around my outdoor office all day flattering me about Beneath the Turf, this little fifteen-page manual I wrote in 1987 for the groundskeeper at Busch Stadium. He kept on saying it was a classic in astro-turf management.
CS: How long did that continue?
GT: It probably would have continued forever if I hadn't handed him one of my zen rakes and told him to sift the batter's boxes in the bullpen.
CS: Did Vince Coleman do a good job?
GT: He did a great job. In fact he did such a great job I offered to let him massage a coat of duck manure into the infield dirt. That may sound like an insult but in field crew culture duck manure guy is actually the highest honor.
CS: Do players usually show a zest for grounds keeping?
GT: No, not usually but that team in 1994 was full of players, everyone was trying their hand at surface psychology. They didn't have a lot of technique but they showed a lot of enthusiasm. David Cone used to curl up on the pitcher's mound on the nights before he pitched. Dave Henderson tried to camp out in the outfield but I had to stop him because he tried to hammer stakes into the turf.
CS: Do you have any more memoirs up your sleeve?
GT: Can't you see brainiac? I'm shirtless! But seriously, that's not my soil.