Charlotte Knights
Founded in 1976
Charlotte, North Carolina
Minor league affiliations
ClassTriple-A (1993–present)
Previous classesDouble-A (1976–1992)
LeagueTriple-A East (2021–present)
DivisionSoutheast Division
Previous leagues
Major league affiliations
TeamChicago White Sox (1999–present)
Previous teams
Minor league titles
League titles (4)
  • 1980
  • 1984
  • 1993
  • 1999
Division titles (7)
  • 1980
  • 1984
  • 1985
  • 1987
  • 1993
  • 2006
  • 2012
First half titles (4)
  • 1976
  • 1979
  • 1980
  • 1987
Second half titles (2)
  • 1984
  • 1985
Wild card berths (1)
  • 1999
Team data
NameCharlotte Knights (1988–present)
Previous names
Charlotte Orioles (1976–1987)
ColorsBlack, gold, silver, white
       
MascotHomer the Dragon
BallparkTruist Field (2014–present)
Previous parks
Owner(s)/
Operator(s)
Don Beaver
General ManagerRob Egan
ManagerWes Helms

The Charlotte Knights are a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A East and the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. They are located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and play their home games at Truist Field, which opened in 2014 and is located in Uptown Charlotte. The team 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 (MLB). The Triple-A Knights carried on the history of the Double-A team that preceded them. The Knights 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. In conjunction with MLB's restructuring of Minor League Baseball in 2021, the Knights were shifted to the Triple-A East.

History

Prior professional baseball in Charlotte

The first professional baseball team in Charlotte was the Charlotte Hornets, who played only a single season. In 1900, the city was home to the Charlotte Presbyterians. A year later, a new Hornets team formed. The Hornets competed in various leagues for 66 seasons through 1972.[1] In 1937, the Washington Senators, later the Minnesota Twins, purchased the team. The Hornets remained a minor league affiliate of 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 an approximately 5,000-seat park in Charlotte's Dilworth neighborhood, Clark Griffith Park. It would be the home of Charlotte baseball for the next half-century.[2]

After spending most of the first half of the 20th century in the low minors (in some years, as low as Class D–equivalent to a Rookie-level team today), the Hornets joined the Class A South Atlantic League (SAL) in 1954. They had previously been members of the SAL in the 1920s. The league became a Double-A circuit in 1963, and was reorganized as the Southern League in 1964. In 1972, Charlotte was home to two teams: the Hornets and Minnesota's Class A affiliate in the Western Carolinas League, the Charlotte Twins.[1] After a lackluster season, however, the Twins were moved to Orlando, Florida, as the Orlando Twins. The Hornets also disbanded after the 1972 season, leaving the city without professional baseball.

Southern League (1976–1992)

In 1976, professional wrestling promoter Jim Crockett Jr. and his family bought the Asheville Orioles, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and relocated the club from Asheville, North Carolina, to Charlotte as the Charlotte Orioles.[3] Crockett renovated Griffith Park and renamed it Jim Crockett Memorial Park.[2] Popularly known as the O's, the club joined the Southern League and inherited the Asheville team's status as the Orioles' Double-A affiliate.

The Southern League used a split-season schedule wherein the division winners from each half qualified for the postseason championship playoffs.[4] Charlotte won the First Half Eastern Division title in their inaugural 1976 season, but they lost the Eastern Division title versus the Orlando Twins in a one-game playoff.[5] The team featured pitcher Dave Ford, who won the Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher Award,[6] and future Baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Murray at first base.[3] Charlotte won another first half title in 1979 but were again eliminated in the Eastern Division series by the Columbus Astros, 2–0.[7]

Cal Ripken Jr., inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, played for the Charlotte O's in 1979 and 1980.[8]
Cal Ripken Jr., inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, played for the Charlotte O's in 1979 and 1980.[8]

Manager Jimmy Williams led the 1980 O's to end the season with an even 72–72 record and the first half title.[9] They then swept the Savannah Braves in a three-game series for the Eastern Division title and defeated the Memphis Chicks, 3–1, to win their first Southern League championship.[9] The 1980 team included future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. at third base.[3] The Orioles returned to the postseason four years later when managers Grady Little and John Hart led them to a 75–72 record and the second half title. They defeated the Greenville Braves, 3–1, for the Eastern Division title before winning their second league championship over the Knoxville Blue Jays, 3–0.[10] Ken Dixon was selected as the league's Most Outstanding Pitcher.[6]

In March 1985, the mostly wood-framed Crockett Park was destroyed by fire.[3] An investigation revealed arson as the cause.[2] 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. The 1985 O's won a second half title and the Eastern Division over Columbus, 3–1, but lost the Southern League title to the Huntsville Stars, 3–2.[11] Similarly, the 1987 first-half champion O's won the division title versus the Jacksonville Expos, 3–2, but lost the league crown to the Birmingham Barons, 3–1.[12] Third baseman Tom Dodd was selected for the 1987 Southern League Most Valuable Player Award.[6]

Following the 1987 season, 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 in a naming contest, and Crockett Park was renamed Knights Park.[13][14] The team's 13-year affiliation with Baltimore ended after the 1988 season.

In 1989, Shinn moved the Knights to Knights Castle, a temporary 8,000-seat stadium located just over the state line in Fort Mill, South Carolina, near the construction site of their permanent home, Knights Stadium.[2] The stadium was built solely for the 1989 season and was demolished following the final game that year to make room for the completion of the 10,000-seat Knights Stadium.[2] Along with a new ballpark, the Knights also had a new major league affiliate in the Chicago Cubs. Laddie Renfroe won the 1989 Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher Award.[6] Charlotte returned to the playoffs in 1992, but they lost the Eastern Division title to Greenville, who had won both halves of the season.[15]

International League (1993–2020)

In conjunction with the 1993 Major League Baseball expansion, team owner George Shinn was granted an expansion franchise in the Triple-A International League (IL), which would begin playing in Charlotte in 1993.[16] Shinn, who had applied for Charlotte to receive one of two available Triple-A expansion teams, was recommended by the expansion committee after their visit to evaluate the city.[17][18] Of the nine applicant cities, Charlotte had the newest stadium, the only major league sports franchise (Shinn's Charlotte Hornets), and the largest metro area population.[18] It would be the first time that a Carolinas-based team would play at the highest level of minor league baseball.

Gaining a Triple-A team meant Shinn would need to relocate, or sell, his existing Southern League team as the higher classification team held the rights to the territory.[19][20] He solicited offers to purchase the club to help defray a US$5 million International League enfranchisement cost.[21] Shinn initially sold the Double-A franchise to Tom Benson, owner of the National Football League's New Orleans Saints, who sought to relocate the club to New Orleans,[20][22] but the move was blocked when Minor League Baseball granted territorial rights to the higher-classification Triple-A Denver Zephyrs, who wanted to move to New Orleans after being uprooted by the Colorado Rockies National League expansion team.[20] Benson eventually opted out of the purchase.[20] Without a ballpark for the 1994 season, Larry Schmittou, president and owner of the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, offered Herschel Greer Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, as a temporary ballpark for the displaced team until Shinn could find a permanent location.[23] So, the team relocated there in 1993 as the Nashville Xpress.[24]

Jim Thome of the 1993 Knights was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.[25]
Jim Thome of the 1993 Knights was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.[25]

The Triple-A Charlotte Knights carried on the history and identity of the preceding Double-A team and became the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.[21] In 1993, Charlie Manuel managed the Knights to win the Western Division title with an 86–55 record. They then defeated the Richmond Braves, 3–1, in the semifinals to advance to the Governors' Cup finals for the International League championship. In the best-of-five series, Charlotte won their first IL championship over the Rochester Red Wings, 3–2.[26] Third baseman Jim Thome, who was later inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame, won the 1993 International League Most Valuable Player Award with the Knights.[27] The 1994 squad made a push for a second IL title, but lost the semifinals versus Richmond, 3–1.[28] Much of the core of the 1993–94 Knights, including Manuel, would help lead the Indians to the World Series in 1995 and 1997.

In 1995, the Knights switched their affiliation to the Florida Marlins. Over four years with Florida, Charlotte's only postseason appearance occurred in 1997. As in their previous playoff run, they were eliminated in the semifinals by the Columbus Clippers, 3–1.[29] In 1996, left fielder Billy McMillon was selected as the IL Rookie of the Year.[27]

Before the 1997 season, Shinn sold the Knights to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver,[30] who negotiated a Triple-A affiliation with the Chicago White Sox, which began in 1999. Manager Tom Spencer led the Knights to win the IL Wild Card that season with an 82–62 record. They defeated the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, 3–2, in the semifinals before winning their second IL championship against the Durham Bulls, 3–1.[31] This win earned the team a spot in the Triple-A World Series, a postseason interleague championship series between the league champions of the IL and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Charlotte lost the Triple-A World Series versus the Vancouver Canadians, 3–2.[32] Spencer was recognized as the IL Manager of the Year.[27]

Jon Garland, later of the 2005 World Series champion White Sox, won the IL Most Valuable Pitcher Award in 2000 with the Knights.[27] In 2003, second baseman Aaron Miles was the Rookie of the Year.[27] Charlotte next qualified for the Governors' Cup playoffs in 2006 having won the Southern Division title, but they lost the semifinals to the Toledo Mud Hens, 3–1.[33] Despite the early postseason exit, a pair of Knights were selected for IL awards. Heath Phillips was the Most Valuable Pitcher, and third baseman Josh Fields was the Rookie of the Year.[27] The club's next playoff appearance came in 2012 after winning another Southern Division title. The defeated the Indianapolis Indians, 3–1, to reach the finals but were swept out of the championship round by the Pawtucket Red Sox in three games.[34]

The Knights have played at Truist Field since 2014.
The Knights have played at Truist Field since 2014.

The Knights' attendance sagged after the turn of the millennium, in part because Knights Stadium was almost half an hour south of Charlotte. Many fans were unwilling to brave Interstate 77's infamous congestion in order to go to the stadium.[35] 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 10,200-seat stadium in downtown Charlotte. The $54 million park, BB&T Ballpark, now Truist Field, opened in time for the 2014 season.[2] It is located one block from Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers.[35] To go along with the move, the Knights dropped the navy blue and dark green color scheme they had been using for the previous 15 years in favor of 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 his horse.[36]

Charlotte hosted the 2016 Triple-A All-Star Game in which a team of International League All-Stars defeated the Pacific Coast League All-Stars, 4–2.[37] The Knights narrowly missed the 2016 playoffs, finishing a half game behind the first-place Gwinnett Stripers.[38] The start of the 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before being cancelled on June 30.[39][40]

Triple-A East (2021–present)

Following the 2020 season, Major League Baseball assumed control of Minor League Baseball in a move to increase player salaries, modernize facility standards, and reduce travel. The Chicago White Sox retained Charlotte as their Triple-A affiliate, but the International League disbanded, and the Knights followed the other IL teams into the Triple-A East.[41] Charlotte ended the season in seventh place in the Southeastern Division with a 45–75 record.[42] No playoffs were held to determine a league champion; instead, the team with the best regular-season record was the declared the winner.[43] However, 10 games that had been postponed from the start of the season were reinserted into the schedule as a postseason tournament called the Triple-A Final Stretch in which all 30 Triple-A clubs competed for the highest winning percentage over that stretch.[43] Charlotte finished the tournament in 26th place with a 2–6 record.[44]

Season-by-season records

Table key
League The team's final position in the league standings
Division The team's final position in the divisional standings
GB Games behind the team that finished in first place in the division that season
Class champions Class champions (1998–present)
League champions League champions (1976–present)
* Division champions (1976–present)
^ Postseason berth (1976–present)
Season-by-season records
Season League Regular season Postseason MLB affiliate Ref.
Record Win % League Division GB Record Win % Result
1976
^
SL 74–66 .529 3rd 2nd 1+12 0–1 .000 Won First Half Eastern Division title
Lost Eastern Division title vs. Orlando Twins, 1–0[5]
Baltimore Orioles [45]
1977 SL 69–71 .493 5th 4th 8+12 Baltimore Orioles [46]
1978 SL 66–78 .458 8th 5th 16+12 Baltimore Orioles [47]
1979
^
SL 73–69 .514 5th 2nd 10+12 0–2 .000 Won First Half Eastern Division title
Lost Eastern Division title vs. Columbus Astros, 2–0[7]
Baltimore Orioles [48]
1980
^ * League champions
SL 72–72 .500 5th 3rd 5 6–1 .857 Won First Half Eastern Division title
Won Eastern Division title vs. Savannah Braves, 3–0
Won SL championship vs. Memphis Chicks, 3–1[9]
Baltimore Orioles [49]
1981 SL 74–69 .517 4th 2nd 5+12 Baltimore Orioles [50]
1982 SL 66–77 .462 9th 5th 16+12 Baltimore Orioles [51]
1983 SL 69–77 .473 6th 3rd 12+12 Baltimore Orioles [52]
1984
^ * League champions
SL 75–72 .510 4th 4th 8 6–1 .857 Won Second Half Eastern Division title
Won Eastern Division title vs. Greenville Braves, 3–1
Won SL championship vs. Knoxville Blue Jays, 3–0[10]
Baltimore Orioles [53]
1985
^ *
SL 78–65 .545 3rd 2nd 12 5–4 .556 Won Second Half Eastern Division title
Won Eastern Division title vs. Columbus Astros, 3–1
Lost SL championship vs. Huntsville Stars, 3–2[11]
Baltimore Orioles [54]
1986 SL 71–73 .493 6th 4th 4+12 Baltimore Orioles [55]
1987
^ *
SL 85–60 .586 2nd 2nd 12 4–5 .444 Won First Half Eastern Division title
Won Eastern Division title vs. Jacksonville Expos, 3–2
Lost SL championship vs. Birmingham Barons, 3–1[12]
Baltimore Orioles [56]
1988 SL 69–75 .479 7th 4th 18 Baltimore Orioles [57]
1989 SL 70–73 .490 6th 4th 8+12 Chicago Cubs [58]
1990 SL 65–79 .451 9th 4th 20 Chicago Cubs [59]
1991 SL 74–70 .514 5th 4th 14 Chicago Cubs [60]
1992
^
SL 70–73 .490 5th 2nd 30 0–3 .000 Lost Eastern Division title vs. Greenville Braves, 3–0[15] Chicago Cubs [61]
1993
* League champions
IL 86–55 .610 1st 1st 6–3 .667 Won Western Division title
Won semifinals vs. Richmond Braves, 3–1
Won IL championship vs. Rochester Red Wings, 3–2[26]
Cleveland Indians [62]
1994
^
IL 77–65 .542 3rd 2nd 3+12 1–3 .250 Lost semifinals vs. Richmond Braves, 3–1[28] Cleveland Indians [63]
1995 IL 59–81 .421 9th 5th 26 Florida Marlins [64]
1996 IL 62–79 .440 8th (tie) 8th (tie) 22+12 Florida Marlins [65]
1997
^
IL 76–65 .539 4th 2nd 2+12 1–3 .250 Lost semifinals vs. Columbus Clippers, 3–1[29] Florida Marlins [66]
1998 IL 70–73 .490 8th 3rd 9+12 Florida Marlins [67]
1999
^ League champions
IL 82–62 .569 3rd 2nd 1+12 8–6 .571 Won wild card berth
Won semifinals vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, 3–2
Won IL championship vs. Durham Bulls, 3–1[31]
Lost Triple-A World Series vs. Vancouver Canadians, 3–2[32]
Chicago White Sox [68]
2000 IL 78–65 .545 6th 2nd 3 Chicago White Sox [69]
2001 IL 67–77 .465 10th 4th 19 Chicago White Sox [70]
2002 IL 55–88 .385 13th 4th 24+12 Chicago White Sox [71]
2003 IL 74–70 .514 6th 2nd 1 Chicago White Sox [72]
2004 IL 68–74 .479 9th 4th 11+12 Chicago White Sox [73]
2005 IL 57–87 .396 13th 3rd 22 Chicago White Sox [74]
2006
*
IL 79–62 .560 2nd 1st 1–3 .250 Won Southern Division title
Lost semifinals vs. Toledo Mud Hens, 3–1[33]
Chicago White Sox [75]
2007 IL 63–80 .441 13th 4th 17 Chicago White Sox [76]
2008 IL 63–78 .447 12th (tie) 3rd (tie) 9+12 Chicago White Sox [77]
2009 IL 67–76 .469 11th 4th 15+12 Chicago White Sox [78]
2010 IL 67–77 .465 10th (tie) 3rd (tie) 21+12 Chicago White Sox [79]
2011 IL 69–74 .483 9th 3rd 11+12 Chicago White Sox [80]
2012
*
IL 83–61 .576 3rd 1st 3–4 .429 Won Southern Division title
Won semifinals vs. Indianapolis Indians, 3–1
Lost IL championship vs. Pawtucket Red Sox, 3–0[34]
Chicago White Sox [81]
2013 IL 65–78 .455 12th 3rd 21+12 Chicago White Sox [82]
2014 IL 63–81 .438 14th 4th 12 Chicago White Sox [83]
2015 IL 74–70 .514 7th (tie) 3rd (tie) 4 Chicago White Sox [84]
2016 IL 65–79 .451 11th 2nd 12 Chicago White Sox [38]
2017 IL 61–81 .430 12th 4th 25 Chicago White Sox [85]
2018 IL 64–75 .460 10th 4th 15 Chicago White Sox [86]
2019 IL 75–64 .540 3rd (tie) 2nd (tie) 5 Chicago White Sox [87]
2020 IL Season cancelled (COVID-19 pandemic)[40] Chicago White Sox [88]
2021 AAAE 45–75 .375 20th 7th 32 2–6 .250 Lost series vs. Norfolk Tides, 3–2
Lost series vs. Memphis Redbirds, 3–0
Placed 20th (tie) in the Triple-A Final Stretch[44]
Chicago White Sox [42]
Totals 3,134–3,271 .489 43–45 .489

Radio and television

Matt Swierad has been the play-by-play announcer for Knights radio broadcasts since 1998.[89] Live audio broadcasts are available online through the team's website and the MiLB First Pitch app. Games can be viewed through the MiLB.TV subscription feature of the official website of Minor League Baseball, with audio provided by a radio simulcast.[90] Broadcast information for the 2021 season has yet to be announced.

Roster

Players Coaches/Other

Pitchers

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders


Manager

Coaches

  • 26 Daniel Gonzalez
  • 23 Chris Johnson (hitting)
  • 25 Matt Zaleski (pitching)


7-day injured list
* On Chicago White Sox 40-man roster
~ Development list
# Rehab assignment
∞ Reserve list
‡ Restricted list
§ Suspended list
± Taxi squad
† Temporarily inactive list
Roster updated September 22, 2021
Transactions
→ More rosters: MiLB • Triple-A East
Chicago White Sox minor league players

Awards

Ken Dixon won the Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher Award in 1984.
Josh Fields won the International League Rookie of the Year Award in 2006.

Eleven players, one manager, and three executives have won league awards in recognition for their performance with Charlotte.[6][27]

Southern League Awards
Award Recipient Season Ref.
Most Valuable Player Tom Dodd 1987 [6]
Most Outstanding Pitcher Dave Ford 1976 [6]
Most Outstanding Pitcher Ken Dixon 1984 [6]
Most Outstanding Pitcher Laddie Renfroe 1989 [6]
Executive of the Year Frances Crockett 1980 [6]
Executive of the Year Frances Crockett 1985 [6]
Executive of the Year Bill Lavelle 1991 [6]
International League Awards
Award Recipient Season Ref.
Most Valuable Player Jim Thome 1993 [27]
Most Valuable Pitcher Jon Garland 2000 [27]
Most Valuable Pitcher Heath Phillips 2006 [27]
Most Valuable Pitcher Erik Johnson 2015 [27]
Rookie of the Year Billy McMillon 1996 [27]
Rookie of the Year Aaron Miles 2003 [27]
Rookie of the Year Josh Fields 2006 [27]
Manager of the Year Tom Spencer 1999 [27]
Executive of the Year Dan Rajkowski 2014 [27]

Managers

Charlotte has had 27 managers since their inaugural 1976 season.[91]

Manager Season(s)
Jim Schaffer 1976–1977
Lance Nichols 1978
Jimmy Williams 1979–1980
Mark Wiley 1981–1982
Grady Little 1983–1984
John Hart 1984–1985
Greg Biagini 1986–1988
Jim Essian 1989
Tommy Helms 1990
Jay Loviglio 1990–1991
Marv Foley 1992
Charlie Manuel 1993
Brian Graham 1994
Sal Rende 1995–1996
Carlos Tosca 1997
Fredi González 1998
Tom Spencer 1999
Nick Leyva 2000–2005
Manny Trillo 2005
Razor Shines 2006
Marc Bombard 2007–2008
Chris Chambliss 2009–2010
Joe McEwing 2011
Joel Skinner 2012–2015
Julio Vinas 2016
Mark Grudzielanek 2017–2019
Wes Helms 2020–present

References

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