Don Worthington

Memories of Charlotte Knights baseball sought

dworthington@heraldonline.comApril 15, 2013 

  • Charlotte Knights timeline

    1989: Fans select Knights as the new name for the Charlotte team now playing in a temporary stadium near Fort Mill.

    1990: Knights stadium opens. The Knights, a AA club for the Chicago Cubs, go 65-79.

    1993: The Knights join the International League as a Cleveland Indians AAA farm club. The team wins International League title, the Governor’s Cup. Attendance that year is 412,029. Future major-league players include Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Chad Ogea. The manager is Charles Manuel.

    1995: Affiliated with the Florida Marlins.

    1996: Owner George Shinn sells the team to Don Beaver.

    1999: The Knights, now a Chicago White Sox farm club, win the Governor’s Cup.

    2012: The Knights are runners-up for the Governor’s Cup.

  • More information

    Send us your memories

    The Herald wants to commemorate the Knights’ last season in their Fort Mill stadium. Send your memories of Knights stadium, on and off the field, to dworthington@heraldonline.com for use in future stories about 25 years of making baseball memories just a little bit south of North Carolina.

There is something about a baseball fan that defies logic.

You can root for a team or player, or even a fantasy collection of players from different teams. You can celebrate a pitch, a play or a pennant.

You can collect autographs, cards and caps – even stadiums.

Some fans travel miles to add another stadium to their list, and long-time travelers have double entries for many cities, such as Washington, D.C., with Robert F. Kennedy or RFK, as well as the newer Nationals Park. Old-timers have Griffith Stadium on their D.C. list too.

Then there’s the baseball bobble head. The San Francisco Giants promoted the first baseball bobble in 1999 when the team gave 3,500 fans a Willie Mays bobble head.

You also can collect memories. At its core, baseball is about memories and carrying them forward with reverence, usually passed from father to son.

It is why sportswriter Thomas Boswell once wrote that time begins on opening day.

It is the one point in time when, as blogger Bruce Stewart observed, “before and after (are) separated at a moment of anticipation and execution. ... Being a baseball fan is to acquaint oneself with loss, with defeat, with failure and still come away with hope.”

Stewart must be a Cubs fan at heart.

The Charlotte Knights recently celebrated their opening day at the Fort Mill park in the most memorable fashion. Designated hitter Seth Loman hit an extra-inning, walk-off homer for a 9-8 victory over the Gwinnett Braves. It was his 99th career home run in the minor leagues.

Were you among the official 4,159 fans at the game that night?

Do you have other Charlotte Knights memories? Were you there when the Knights played in a temporary stadium, the area now outside the right field fence when just getting a parking spot was memorable?

Were you there in 1993, the first year the Knights were in the AAA International League? The team was affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, and prospect Jim Thome rattled the outfield light towers with some powerful home runs. The Knights won the International League title, the Governor’s Cup, that year.

Were you there the night Livian Hernandez, who defected from Cuba, took the mound for the Knights? Do remember the shortstop from Columbia behind Hernandez, Edgar Renteria?

The two would go on to help the Florida Marlins win the 1997 World Series over the Cleveland Indians. That series featured many former Knights, as the Charlotte team went from being an Indians’ farm team to a Marlins’ farm team. Renteria had the series-winning hit for the Marlins, an 11th-inning, seventh-game single. Hernandez had two of the four wins for Florida.

Or were you stuck in traffic on I-77 the night Curt Schilling of Boston Red Sox fame came to Fort Mill on a rehab assignment with the Pawtucket Red Sox?

Did you get that Cal Ripken Jr. bobble head the Knights gave it away in June 2007? The Knights gave away 2,632 Ripken bobbles, one for each game in his consecutive-games-played streak.

Are your memories off the field?

Have you ever sung the Star-Spangled Banner to start the game, as Jennifer McClure did 24 year ago today?

On April 15,1990, a Sunday, McClure sang for the second-ever crowd in Knights stadium. McClure was a 13-year-old student at Fort Mill Middle School at the time. The game was actually the first for the Knights, as the season opener on Saturday was stopped because of rain.

Or have you been one of the many who have worked the concession stand, making popcorn and selling Cracker Jacks?

The Knights are celebrating 24 years of baseball at the stadium, their final year here before returning to Charlotte.

“We have our eye on the ball,” said Scott Brown, the Knights general manager. “This is a great facility and we want to give it a proper sendoff with a Governor’s Cup championship.”

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 dworthington@heraldonline.com

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