Nathan `Reds' Scherr, 80, developer, owner of 1982 Preakness winner

November 23, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Nathan "Reds" Scherr, a retired developer and former owner of the Baltimore Blast professional soccer team whose horse Aloma's Ruler won the 1982 Preakness Stakes, died of Parkinson's disease Friday at Cherrywood Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Reisterstown. He was 80.

Mr. Scherr, whose nickname comes from his full head of red hair, was born in Baltimore, the son of immigrant parents from Russia. He was raised on Oswego Avenue and graduated in 1941 from Polytechnic Institute. He earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1946 from Cornell University.

During World War II, he served in the Navy. As a member of the Seabees, he built airfields in the Pacific Theater of operations.

After college, Mr. Scherr returned to Baltimore and went to work with a New York construction company that was building Liberty Reservoir.

In 1958, he established Peer Construction Co., which built tract homes, shopping centers and apartments. One of his projects was University One Condominiums, built on the site of the old Marie Baurenschmidt mansion at University Parkway and St. Paul Street.

He also developed and lived at Garrison Farms, a residential development off Stevenson Road. While developing the site in the early 1960s, he helped preserve Fort Garrison, an historic fort that had been there since the late 1600s.

The 18-by-40-foot, two-story fort, which is near Exit 21 of the Baltimore Beltway, was one of three authorized by the Maryland General Assembly in 1692. Built a year later, it was manned by six rangers to protect settlers from Indian attacks.

Fort Garrison had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being bulldozed when Mr. Scherr donated it to Baltimore County. Since 1971, it has been on the National Register of Historic Places.

He retired in 1996.

An avid sportsman, he purchased the Baltimore Blast soccer team in 1984 from Bernie Rodin. During his ownership of the team, he helped negotiate a merger between the Major Indoor Soccer League and the North American Soccer League. In 1989, he sold the team to its current owner, Edwin F. Hale Sr., chairman of 1st Mariner Bank.

Perhaps one of Mr. Scherr's happiest moment in the limelight was when his horse Aloma's Ruler romped home to win the 1982 Preakness.

John J. "Butch" Lenzini, a horse trainer, persuaded Mr. Scherr to purchase the 2-year-old, a son of Iron Ruler and Native Charger mare Aloma, at auction for $92,000.

After Aloma's Ruler suffered an ankle injury in February 1982, Mr. Lenzini suggested the horse not run in the Preakness.

He was overruled by Mr. Scherr, who had the pleasure of seeing his horse, ridden by jockey Jack Kaenel and given odds of 6-1, win the race.

"If I had to pick one race in the whole world to win -- the Kentucky Derby, the English Derby, the Pimlico Special, one of the Breeders' Cups -- this would be the race. It was the most exciting moment in sports, maybe my most exciting moment in life," Mr. Scherr told The Sun in a 1996 interview.

In an earlier interview, he said he had no recollection of walking to the winner's circle. "I just floated," he said.

He said that every May, his thoughts returned to the day his horse won the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

"There was an element of luck there, too," he said in the 1996 interview. "Once in a while, I'm pretty smart and do the right thing. Once in a while, I'm a dummy, too. But I was smart and quite determined then. At one point, I thought destiny was pushing us through."

Aloma's Ruler won seven of 13 races and earned his owner $498,883, before being put out to stud. The horse died this year.

Mr. Scherr was a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. His philanthropic interests included Associated Jewish Charities and the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

He was an avid golfer and was a member of Woodholme Country Club and Bonnie View Country Club.

He was married in 1954 to Annette Fisher, who died in 1982.

Services will be held at 9 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.

Mr. Scherr is survived by a son, Bruce J. Scherr of Stevenson; a daughter, Barbara S. Jacobi of Pikesville; a brother, Milton "Bob" Scherr of Reisterstown; a sister, Rebecca Evnitz of Florida; and seven grandchildren.

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