Worthy honor for Vanden Berg

Late Brewers groundskeeper Gary Vanden Berg’s name will grace a trophy presented to inductees of the new Major League Baseball Groundskeeper Hall of Fame.

The Hall’s inaugural inductees were announced Wednesday by an association of MLB groundskeepers and they are Emil Bossard and George Toma. They will be recognized on Sunday in Anaheim during the 14th annual meeting of baseball’s turf crews.

Vanden Berg’s colleagues voted unanimously to name the Hall of Fame trophy in his honor. He died Oct. 10 while the Brewers were playing in the National League Championship Series, after spending 30 years with the team including more than 20 years as the team’s Director of Grounds. Vanden Berg, who died after a battle with cancer, was instrumental in the Brewers’ 2001 move from County Stadium to Miller Park, where the convertible dome created unique challenges for growing and maintaining grass.

“Gary was a fixture of the Brewers — one of the faces of Miller Park for a lot of people,” infielder Craig Counsell said after Vanden Berg’s death. “He would ask frequently, ‘How am I doing? What can we do better? He definitely wanted input.”

Vanden Berg continued visiting Miller Park in 2011 even though he was ill. Brewers director of baseball operations Tom Flanagan, whose tenure with the club began as a batboy in 1990, last saw Vanden Berg at Miller Park on the afternoon of Sept. 23, hours before the team clinched the NL Central.

“You could tell that being at the park was his passion,” Flanagan said.

The Brewers wore uniform patches to honor Vanden Berg for the remainder of their postseason run, and players and fans observed a moment of silence before Game 3 of the NLCS in St. Louis and Game 6 in Milwaukee.

Bossard and Toma were nominated by the groundskeeper Hall of Fame Committee and approved by membership. The group plans to continue to recognize individuals who have made a significant impact on baseball, the sports turf industry and their communities by inducting new members each year.

Bossard, who died in 1980, enjoyed a 70-year career in baseball including a long stint with the Indians and had three sons who went on to be Major League head groundskeepers.

Toma learned his craft from Bossard while working in the Indians’ Minor League system. His 60-year career included jobs with the Kansas City Athletics (1957-1967) and Royals (1969-1997), and duties for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. While he’s now semi-retired, Toma still works each Super Bowl and tends the Spring Training fields in Ft. Myers, Fla. for the Twins.

In 2001, Toma was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Daniel F. Reeves Pioneer Award.


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