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Charlotte Knights to honor former Hornets players on Aug. 5

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/28/21/10/rFWb6.Em.138.jpeg|316
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    Former Charlotte Hornets ball players Gene Verble (left) and Bill Whitby (right) visit the new Charlotte Knights ballpark on Monday. Verble was a player and player manager and manager between 1957 and 1960, Whitby pitched in the '63-'65 seasons.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/28/21/10/1hPOgz.Em.138.jpeg|475
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    Former Charlotte Hornets player manager Gene Verble looks out over BB&T Ball Park, new home of the Charlotte Knights. Verble played and managed the Hornets from 1956 through 1960.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/28/21/10/H00Sn.Em.138.jpeg|219
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    1965 Miss Hornet Donnelle Whitby watches as her husband, pitcher Bill Whitby, and Gene Verble give interviews at BB&T Ball Park on Monday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/28/21/10/1cb4oQ.Em.138.jpeg|209
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    Former Charlotte Hornets pitcher Bill Whitby and his wife, Donnelle, the 1965 Miss Hornet, visit the new Charlotte Knights ballpark on Monday. Whitby pitched in the '63-'65 seasons.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/28/21/10/18wFTv.Em.138.jpeg|209
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    The Charlotte Hornets patch.

With the return of baseball to uptown Charlotte for the first time in 26 years, the Charlotte Knights on Aug. 5 will honor former players from the city’s minor-league team once named the Hornets.

Monday, the former players toured 10,200-seat BB&T BallPark. The new stadium was far nicer than what the players recalled of Calvin Griffith Park, which stood 8 miles away.

“Old Griffith Stadium? There’s no comparison,” former player and manager Gene Verble said. “This is getting close to big leagues to me.”

Verble and former pitcher Bill Whitby remembered small wooden locker-room stalls and benches they shared with teammates, and thick jerseys handed down from the Minnesota Twins, the team’s major-league affiliate in the 1960s. Often, there weren’t enough jerseys to outfit the entire team.

That’s a far cry from the cushy locker room and five uniform combinations the Knights wear today.

Things are obviously much different from when they played, but Verble and Whitby still share a love for the game. Many of their favorite memories come from Charlotte, most notably Whitby throwing a no-hitter against Asheville and pitching 15 innings in one game, unheard of today.

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