Fact Friday 43 - The Original Charlotte Hornets
Happy Friday everyone!
Everyone should have heard that our beloved Charlotte Hornets have clinched a spot in the 2016 NBA playoffs! This is something we should all be excited about, whether you’re into basketball or not. If you’ve got love for the 704, then be pumped and proud of them! There are 30 teams in the NBA and only 16 (8 seeds each from the Eastern and Western Conferences) make the playoffs and compete for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. It looks like our 6th seeded Hornets will be matched up against our I-85 rivals, the 3rd seeded Atlanta Hawks. The second playoff appearance in three seasons, it will be the 10th trip to the postseason in 26 years of NBA basketball in Charlotte.
You might be surprised to know that the team name “Charlotte Hornets” didn’t, however, start with our NBA franchise when it played its inaugural 1988-89 season. In fact, the name association with a Charlotte-based sports team dates back to 1901, 115 years ago.
The original Charlotte Hornets was an American minor league baseball franchise that lasted in some form until 1973, capturing 11 league titles during its history. Though the Charlotte Hornets was officially founded in 1901, the formation of the team dates back to 1892, according to Minor League Baseball records. The team was purchased by the Washington Senators in 1937. The club would remain affiliated with the Senators/Twins franchise for 35 years.
Notable names that played for the Charlotte Hornets included Early Wynn, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. Graham, a former star of the UNC Chapel Hill baseball team, played for the Hornets in 1902. He went on to the major leagues to play for the Giants, but never made it to bat. His story is dramatized in the movie “Field of Dreams.”
In 1938 the team was managed by Calvin Griffith, the adopted son of Senators owner Clark Griffith. In 1940, Calvin Griffith built a 3,200-seat park in Charlotte's Dilworth neighborhood on Magnolia Avenue and named it Clark Griffith Park. It would be the home of Charlotte baseball for nearly a half-century.
Clark Griffith Stadium – Home of the Charlotte Hornets (1972)
During the 3 years prior to 1971, the stadium sat empty and deteriorating. In an effort to save the iconic stadium and return baseball to Charlotte, in 1971 Charlotte Wrestling promoter, Jim Crockett, Jr. and the Crockett family purchased the Asheville Orioles, the AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and renamed them the Charlotte Orioles. They also purchased the ballpark, which thereafter was known as Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Park. Eventual major-league superstars included Eddie Murray (the O's original first baseman in 1976) and Cal Ripken (1980).
On March 17, 1985, three arsonists burned down the mostly wood-framed facility.
The Crockett family built a 5,500-seat makeshift stadium immediately afterward, which served as the O's home for three years. In 1987 after the season concluded. George Shinn, founder of the NBA Charlotte Hornets, bought the team from the Crockett family. He immediately renamed the team the Knights and switched the team's affiliation to the Chicago Cubs a year later. The team was affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, 1993–1995, Florida Marlins, 1996–1997 and since 1998 have been a farm team of the Chicago White Sox. For the 1988 season the team was moved to Fort Mill, South Carolina, although it was still called the Charlotte Knights. The team played in York County, South Carolina until 2013, when BB&T Ballpark (Charlotte) was built in uptown Charlotte.
Until next week!
Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
Information taken from:
Cmstory.org (Charlotte Mecklenburg Library)
Some content reworded or updated. Additional commentary added.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass