Former Chiefs and Royals Grounds team members reunite

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When George Toma was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in October, the former groundskeeper of Truman Municipal Stadium and Sports Complex in Kansas City, Missouri, thanked all of his former employees.

“If it weren’t for these people and their parents, there wouldn’t be a George Toma today, and I say that to the whole world,” Toma recalled at a reunion of former gardeners. .

KSHB 41 News attended the meeting at the former Municipal Stadium site, 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue.

Most of Toma’s employees lived in the neighborhood and attended nearby Lincoln Preparatory Academy and Central High School. For some, work has turned into a career. For others, it was a gateway to the job market.

Seven members of the Bruce family, all brothers in the family of 12, worked for Toma at one time. Here are the stories of each member at the meeting.

Wilford Bruce, Jr.
Bruce’s older brother started working at the Municipal Stadium in 1962 when athletics was his hometown baseball team. He fondly remembers owner Charlie Finley.

“He used to take us to a barbecue here for lunch sometimes,” Wilford said.

After being drafted into the army, Wilford became the landscaping manager of the Truman Sports Complex. This job meant he was responsible for all the trees and grass surrounding the stadiums.

He held the position for decades and still enjoys Toma’s praise.

“It makes me feel good because he recognizes us and he knew we were part of the team, the big team,” Wilford said.

Gregory Bruce
He joined the field team in 1964. His fondest memory is watching the longest game in NFL history, Chiefs vs. Dolphins, on December 25, 1971, from the field.

He also enjoyed working with his brothers.

“It was basically a lot of fun, a lot of fun. We had a great time,” he said. “The work was hard, of course, but we made it look less hard.”

Gregory was deployed to Vietnam during the war and now works in security.

Dennis Bruce
In 1969 Dennis started with the team, where he remained for about 15 years.

He then took a job with Sysco and started his own lawn service, which he still operates today: M&M Lawn Service.

Dennis remembers the daily phone calls with Toma, who used a payphone in the tunnel under Truman’s sports complex to assign Dennis his daily duties.

“I actually painted about four Super Bowls with Toma,” Dennis said. “Started with Super Bowl IX until about Super Bowl XIV.”

Roland Bruce
He started working in the field at 16 and made a career out of it. Roland was still part of the team when the Royals won the 2015 World Series and proudly showed off his World Series ring during the reunion.

“Some of the things Toma taught us stay with me,” said Roland, who detailed how he fixed a patch of dead grass in his home.

Andrew Bruce
A career in grounds maintenance, Andre began working after the teams moved to the Truman Sports Complex. He eventually worked exclusively with the Chiefs field team.

From 1991 to 2013, he led the grounds team.

“As a child, you don’t know what you want to do, so you just follow them. [older brothers]”, said André. “Basically, I was doing this, watching what they were doing and having fun with it.

The long-time gardener said he takes pride in everything he does.

Reginald Bruce
He remembers fucking fly balls during batting practice with Amos Otis and mowing lawns for ballplayers during his time on the field.

“I did a bit of everything once I learned it: seeding, laying lines, everything,” Reginald said.

But Reginald made a career as a barbecue chef, working at Arthur Bryant for 35 years.

Elliott Bruce
Bruce’s younger brother recalled seeing his older brothers working in the field. As a teenage sports fan, Elliott vowed to join them one day.

He started working with the team in 1985, the year the Royals won their first World Series.

“I was on the field. I remember after that final that [Darryl] Motley caught, George told me [Toma] to stand on the pitcher’s mound because the pitch was flooded with people from the stands and they were literally trying to dig up the pitcher’s mound,” Elliott said. “They were grabbing handfuls of dirt and putting it in their pocket.

Melvin Duncan
After Toma saw him at a baseball game at Municipal Stadium one night, Melvin was asked to help pull the tarp across the field. Duncan said Toma’s job offer came with one condition: He had to stay in school at Lincoln Prep.

Living a block from the Municipal Stadium, Duncan was on watch when the storms set in.

“The security guard was calling and saying hustle! Scramble means you have to rush here to the ballpark and cover the field because the rain is coming,” he said.

Duncan worked in the field for approximately 14 years. He then drove trucks primarily for the United States Postal Service.

Nelson Thomas
Thomas started as a dealer and bat boy in 1969 before Toma brought him to the field team the same season.

When the teams moved to the Truman Sports Complex, Thomas took a different path, pursuing a career in music.

“George Toma is a mentor to all of us, he brought us together,” Thomas said.

Now, Thomas works on a foundation in Toma’s name to teach teenagers about lawn care, helping them start their own businesses.

George Tome
Now 90, Toma is retired except for helping out at the Super Bowl.

Every time he speaks he thanks the Bruce brothers and all the other members of the field crew in the late 60s and early 70s – like Phil Drake, Oscar Jones (cousin of the Bruces) and Chip Toma , the son of George.

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