Nationals owner Ted Lerner dies at 97
Ted Lerner, owner of the 2019 Washington Nationals World Series champion, has died at the age of 97. According to team spokeswoman Jennifer Mustin Giglio, Lerner died Sunday at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, from complications from pneumonia.
Lerner, a real estate mogul, was born in 1925, a year after the Washington Senators won the World Series, the last the city will see until 2019. He was a fan of the team as a child and became an assistant at Griffith Stadium. (the Senators’ home park) because he almost never could afford to buy tickets. He was able to attend the 1937 All-Star Game because, he told the Washington Post, his ticket was reduced to three cents because he was a student.
He founded his real estate company, Lerner Enterprises, in 1952 with a $250 loan from his wife, Annette, and is now the largest private developer in the Washington, D.C. area, with over 20,000 homes built.
Lerner bought the Nationals in 2006 for $450 million, nearly all of which was his own money. It was the first time baseball had returned to DC since 1971, when the Senators moved to Arlington to become the Texas Rangers. The new Nationals were the Montreal Expos until 2004, when it was announced they would be moved to DC for the 2005 season.
For the first few years of their existence, the Nationals were very much like the Senators of the early 1900s: bad. (Although they were a poor team with a shiny new stadium, as the National Park opened in 2008 after two years of construction under Lerner’s supervision.) Things began to change in 2011, two years after Lerner appointed Mike Rizzo as general manager. This was the first year since 2005 that the team finished at .500 or so.
From there, the Nationals made the playoffs five times over the next eight years, won the National League East four times, and finally won the first World Series championship in franchise history in 2019. Lerner stepped down as managing principal owner in 2018 and handed over the day-to-day running of the team to his son Mark Lerner, but he was on stage when the World Series trophy was presented.
Lerner is survived by his wife Annette and three children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.