Founded in 1976
Charlotte, North Carolina
|Minor league affiliations|
|Previous classes||Double-A (1976-1992)|
|Southern League (1976-1992)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Team||Chicago White Sox (1999-present)|
|Minor league titles|
|Nickname||Charlotte Knights (1988-present)|
|Charlotte Orioles (1976-1987)|
|Colors||Black, gold, silver, white|
|Mascot||Homer the Dragon|
|Ballpark||BB&T Ballpark (2014-present)|
|General Manager||Rob Egan|
The Charlotte Knights are a Minor League Baseball team of the International League (IL) and the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. They are located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and play their home games at BB&T Ballpark, which opened in 2014 and is located in Uptown Charlotte. The Knights previously played at Knights Park (1976-1988), Knights Castle (1989), and Knights Stadium (1990-2013).
Established as a Double-A franchise of the Southern League in 1976, the team was known as the Charlotte Orioles, or Charlotte O's, through 1987. The O's won the Southern League championship twice: in 1980 and 1984 as the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. They were rebranded as the Knights in 1988.
The Knights were replaced by a Triple-A International League team in 1993 in conjunction with the expansion of Major League Baseball. The Triple-A Knights carried on the history of the Double-A team that preceded it. Since joining the IL, the Knights have won two International League championships: in 1993 as the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians and again in 1999 as the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Professional baseball in Charlotte, North Carolina, dates to 1892 with the formation of the Charlotte Hornets. The 1892 Hornets played in the South Atlantic League, but only lasted one season. A new team, the Charlotte Presbyterians played in 1900, but just a year later, a new Charlotte Hornets baseball team formed. They were an independent team until 1935, when they became the Class B Piedmont League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox during that year only. In 1937, the Washington Senators, now the Minnesota Twins, purchased the team. The Hornets remain affiliated with the Senators/Twins for 35 years. In 1940, Calvin Griffith, the son of Senators owner Clark Griffith and future owner of the Senators/Twins, built a 3,200-seat park in Charlotte's Dilworth neighborhood, Calvin Griffith Park. It would be the home of Charlotte baseball for the next half-century.
After several years on the lower rungs of the minor league totem pole, the Hornets joined the Class A South Atlantic League (SAL) in 1954. They had previously been members of the SAL in the 1920s while they were still unaffiliated. The league became a Double-A circuit in 1963 and renamed itself the Southern League in 1964. In 1972, the Twins placed their Class A affiliate in the Western Carolinas League as the Charlotte Twins. After a lackluster season, however, they were moved to Orlando, Florida, as the Orlando Twins. The Hornets disbanded, leaving the city with no professional baseball. There was talk that Charlotte might get baseball again, but a new team to be called the Charlotte Pines never came to fruition.
Charlotte would not see baseball again until 1976, when wrestling promoter Jim Crockett Jr. bought the Asheville Orioles, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and renamed them the Charlotte Orioles. Griffith Park was fixed up, and in 1977 it was renamed Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Park (popularly known as Crockett Park). The team, popularly known as the O's, won Southern League titles in 1980 and 1984. Eventual major league players Eddie Murray (the O's original first baseman in 1976) and Cal Ripken (1980) played for the O's.
In March 1985, Crockett Park (mostly wood-framed) was destroyed by a massive fire after a high school baseball game. An investigation revealed that the fire was caused by arson. The Crockett family built a 3,000-seat makeshift stadium immediately afterward, which served as the O's home for two years. However, unlike its predecessor, it was completely exposed to the elements, causing a steep decline in attendance. In 1987, George Shinn, founder of the National Basketball Association's Charlotte Hornets, bought the team from the Crockett family and committed to building a permanent ballpark. In 1988, the team was renamed the Charlotte Knights out of a naming contest, and Crockett Park was renamed Knights Park. The following season, 1989, the organization's 12-year affiliation with the Orioles ended when Shinn switched the team's affiliation to the Chicago Cubs.
The team moved to Knights Castle, a temporary 8,000 seat stadium located on Deerfield Drive in Fort Mill, South Carolina, near the construction site of their permanent home, Knights Stadium. The stadium was built for the 1989 season and was demolished following the final game that year to make room for Knights Stadium.
In 1993, Charlotte won an expansion team in the International League, which quickly secured an affiliation with the Cleveland Indians. This expansion team took the Charlotte Knights name, as well as the heritage of the Double-A team. It was the first time a team from the Carolinas had played at the highest level of minor league baseball. The Double-A Southern League franchise was temporarily relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, as the Nashville Xpress (1993-1994), and then Wilmington, North Carolina, as the Port City Roosters (1995-1996), before ultimately landing in Mobile, Alabama, as the Mobile Bay Bears in 1997. The new Triple-A Knights, led by future major leaguers Jim Thome and Manny Ramírez, won the International League title in 1993. Much of the core of that team, including manager Charlie Manuel, played a role in the Indians' World Series teams of 1995 and 1997.
For the 1995 to 1998 seasons, the Knights were the Triple-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins. Before the 1997 season, Shinn sold the Knights to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver, who negotiated a Triple-A affiliation with the Chicago White Sox. The Knights won another International League title in 1999 as the White Sox' top affiliate. Notable former Knights under the White Sox affiliation include pitcher Jon Garland and third baseman Joe Crede, both of whom played on the White Sox' World Series championship team in 2005.
On October 8, 2009, the Charlotte Knights and York County agreed in principle on a four-year lease for the team to play at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill. The agreement was to add fan related upgrades to the facility.
In 2011, the Charlotte City Council and Mecklenburg County Commission approved a land-swap agreement which opened the door for the construction of a new Triple-A-sized stadium in downtown Charlotte. The US$54-million BB&T Ballpark opened in time for the 2014 season. It is located one block from Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers. The team's attendance had sagged since the start of the new millennium, and it was hoped that bringing the Knights back to the city would increase attendance. To go along with the move, the Knights dropped the navy blue and dark green color scheme, as well as the old horse head and other logos they had been using for the previous 15 years, and adopted a new black-gold-silver palette, modeled on the color scheme of the White Sox. They also adopted new logos that focused more on the knight rather than the horse. They also began wearing pinstripe jerseys in a nod to the old Hornets.
In 2016, pitcher Brad Goldberg was Charlotte's lone 2016 mid-season International League All Star, and finished the year with a 2.84 ERA and 10 saves (a team high) in 11 opportunities as the team's closer.