CLEVELAND — Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who fought racism and surpassed Babe Ruth’s home-run record to become one of the greatest players of all time, was perhaps one of the most ardent Cleveland Browns fans out there.
Aaron, who died Friday at age 86, spoke to 7th Wave Pictures four years ago for its “Believeland” documentary, to talk about the cold yet spirited days in the Dawg Pound, cheering on the Browns.
Aaron was infatuated with the Cleveland Browns in 1950 when the team had Otto Graham, Marion Motley and Dante Lavelli.
“I guess it was me looking at a team and figuring out what makes these guys so successful, you know, I mean, they won so many championships back then. And I guess like everything else, you know, no matter whether you playing baseball, football, basketball or whatever, you might be playing in order for you to repeat over and over and over again, you've got to be doing good. And they had some very, very good football players back then," Aaron said in 2017, before the Browns bounced back this year, winning a playoff game for the first time in 27 years.
His most memorable moment cheering on the Browns was sitting in the Dawg Pound on those cold days as harsh winds whipped off Lake Erie.
“I had fun out there with the Dawg Pound. I enjoyed myself out there with them and they always had fun," Aaron said of his time among his fellow Browns fans.
"It would be very, very cold. So I didn't have to put on that much," he added. "So what I did put on was a jacket, a hat that would come all over my face and I could only see out of my eyes. So, you know, I don't know that I put on anything else, you know, other than that. But somebody finally found out who I was because what happened was that when I left the Dawg Pound, I went to have dinner at one of the hotels, I mean, and one of the restaurants there....Some guy walked right behind me and pointed his finger at me. I thought that was you. I've been watching you all these many years. And I finally found out it was you."
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, in his book "I Had a Hammer," Aaron recalled the days he would disguise himself when attending training camp and the games.
"I'd disguise myself when I got to the airport. I'd wear an old overcoat and hat, a mustache, glasses. Nobody knew who I was."
Even when he wasn't cheering on the Browns, he was no stranger to the city. In May 2017, Aaron came to Cleveland to see the unveiling of a statue of Frank Robinson, who was MLB's first African-American manager, in Heritage Park prior to a game between the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians.
Following the news of his death, the Cleveland Indians tweeted out a photo of Aaron speaking to a crowd prior to the unveiling of the Robinson statue.
We join the rest of the baseball world in mourning the passing of Hank Aaron. Hank was a legend on and off the field and has left an everlasting impact on the sport.— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) January 22, 2021
RIP Hammerin' Hank. pic.twitter.com/Uv5kQbUyeY