CLEVELAND, Ohio – Todd Baldau isn’t a painter or interior designer by trade, but he knew what he wanted his Browns-memorabilia filled room to look like before creating it.
“The one thing I always knew I really wanted was the color scheme,” Baldau said over the phone. “I wanted it to mimic a helmet essentially. The way I painted it is that it’s essentially in the scheme of a Browns helmet with the orange and the brown and white stripes down the middle.”
Baldau, 54, works for the United States Mint based in Washington D.C. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1987, and as he started buying Browns gear and other memorabilia, he put some things in a walk-in closet he had in his townhouse during the early 1990s.
When he and his wife, Cathy, moved to their current home in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in 2001, Baldau mentioned to her the idea of having a Browns-themed room in the basement. Baldau and his wife have two daughters. The oldest is a sophomore at James Madison University, and their youngest is a high school senior.
The basement was unfinished when Baldau and his wife bought the house, so they waited a couple years to finish it, making sure there was a room for Baldau’s memorabilia. But despite all the items in the room, there’s still some things that aren’t displayed.
“If I made just one mistake with the Browns room is that I made it much, much too small,” he said.
The process of painting the room took a week and a half, but the finished product shows Baldau’s hard work. With seats from the old Municipal Stadium and other relics, the room looks like a mini Browns museum.
Baldau initially had the stadium seats in a storage facility before they were moved into the house. As a dedicated Browns fan, he wanted the people who helped him move the seats to treat them with care.
“My wife, kidding me, saying, ‘These seats have gone through 70 years of wind, rain, snow,’” Baldau said. “They’ve had beer spilled on them, they’ve had God knows all sorts of other crap spilled on them, and you’re treating them like they’re museum artifacts. And I said, ‘Yeah, I am!’ I can’t help it.”
He plans to update the room in the next couple months with an appropriately themed carpet. He tore up the original carpet in the room, but he’s also not sure if adding more orange will be too much.
Baldau’s passion for his favorite team oozes through his memories. He grew up in suburban Maryland, but his father was from East Cleveland. Like most kids do, Baldau followed his father’s lead and became a Browns fan. Baldau’s father passed away in 2013 at 78.
During 1988, Baldau learned there were more fans in D.C. than he thought upon joining the area’s Browns backers club. He remembers watching a game and seeing Browns offensive lineman Henry Sheppard getting hurt. With Sheppard having to come out, Baldau knew backup Robert Jackson would likely come in.
“And as I was thinking that, I heard somebody say across the room, ‘they’ll probably put in Robert Jackson then,’” Baldau said. “And it suddenly just hit me, ‘Oh my God, there are other people who live here in the Washington D.C. area who are just as fanatic about this team as I am.’”
Like most fans, Baldau simply can’t walk away from his team. From the dedicated room in his basement to his relationship with his father, cheering on the Browns has been an important part of Baldau’s life.
“I’ve had both casual friends and close friends say to me, ‘Todd, this team brings you nothing but frustration, nothing but heartache, nothing but disappointment. Why don’t you cut them loose?’” Baldau said. “And I think the quick answer to that is I can’t.”