- Location: Durham, NC
- League: North Carolina League 1902; North Carolina State League 1913-1917; Piedmont League 1920-1933, 1936-1943; Carolina League 1945-1967, 1980-1997; International League 1998-present
- Affiliation: Philadelphia Phillies 1932; New York Yankees 1933; Cincinnati Reds 1936-1939; Brooklyn Dodgers 1940-1943; Boston Red Sox 1945-1946; Detroit Tigers 1948-1961; Houston Colt .45's 1962-1964; Houston Astros 1965-1966; New York Mets 1967; Atlanta Braves 1980-1997; Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1998-2007; Tampa Bay Rays 2008-present
- Ballpark: East Durham Baseball Park 1909-1925; Durham Athletic Park 1926-1933, 1936-1994; Durham Bulls Athletic Park 1995-present
Team History 1913-1943
The Durham Bulls began playing in the North Carolina State League in 1913, filling an eleven-year gap in professional baseball in the city created by the voluntary folding of the first Durham Bulls, also known as the Durham Tobacconists, after their first season in 1902. This Bulls team played their inaugural game on April 24, 1913 on the campus of Trinity College (later Duke University). The Bulls won their first match, defeating the Raleigh Capitals 7-4. The Bulls continued to play in the North Carolina State League until May 30, 1917, when the league folded due to the United States' entry into World War I. Although the season was short, the Durham Bulls were crowned the final champions of the North Carolina State League.
The Bulls returned to Durham, NC in 1920 upon the formation of the Piedmont League. In July of 1926, the Bulls moved into their first stadium independent of Trinity College, El Toro Park. The park was commissioned on July 26, 1926 by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who rode out onto the field on a real bull. The Durham Bulls continued to play in El Toro Park until 1934, when the team was forced to fold due to the Great Depression.
In 1936, the Bulls returned to El Toro Park, which had been purchased by the city of Durham, NC, rebuilt, and renamed the Durham Athletic Park. The Bulls played at the DAP until June 17, 1939 when the stadium burned to the ground. The stadium was hurriedly rebuilt with steel and concrete and on July 2, 1939 the Bulls defeated the Charlotte Hornets 11-4.
On August 5, 1951, the Bulls hosted the Danville Leafs. Although the Bulls lost 5-4, this game was a significant point in team history. Percy Miller Jr. made his professional debut, becoming the first African American player in the Carolina League. The Bulls would not have African American athletes on their team until April 18, 1957, when third baseman Bubba Morton and left-handed pitcher Ted Richardson became the first African-Americans to play for the Durham Bulls. In their first game with the Bulls, Morton went hitless and Richardson took the loss to Greensboro, 4-1.
The Bulls returned to Durham Athletic Park on April 15, 1980. This was the first time Minor League Baseball was played in Durham since 1971. Later that season, the local CBS affiliate aired the June 22 game which was the first time a Durham Bulls game was broadcast on television. The Bulls gained national notoriety in 1987 when the major motion picture Bull Durham, which focuses on the team, was filmed on-site at the Durham Athletic Park. Following the 1987 season, Bulls management began discussion of building a 10,000-to-12,000-seat stadium in order to attract an AAA team.
In 1990, the Bulls were purchased by Jim Goodman, president of the Capitol Broadcasting Company. Mr. Goodman announced plans to move the team a newly built stadium in Triangle Central Park in eastern Durham County. On August 30, 1990, the Bulls drew a crowd of 6,202 to the Durham Athletic Park, pushing the annual attendance to 300,499 fans. This made them the first Class A team to ever reach the 300,000-fan mark.
Following the Bulls' highly publicized "last season" in the Durham Athletic Park, several delays in construction pushed back Opening Day at the new Durham Bulls Athletic Park until 1995. On September 5, 1994, the Bulls lost the last game ever at Durham Athletic Park to the Winston-Salem Warthogs in game one of the Carolina League playoffs.
April 1995 marked the Bulls' first home opener at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, opening the gates to a crowd of 10,886 fans. The Bulls continued to draw Carolina League-record crowds until August 30, 1997 when the Bulls once again lost 6-4 in 10 innings to the Winston-Salem Warthogs in the last game of their 45-season history in the Carolina League.
On April 9, 1998, the Durham Bulls began their first season as the AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, losing 6-1 to the Norfolk Tides. The team continued to grow in popularity, setting a single-game attendance record of 10,916 on July 23, 2001. The Bulls have drawn crowds of over 505,000 in a single season.
On June 13, 2002, third baseman Andy Sheets hit the first inside the park home run in Bulls history. That season the Bulls would go on to claim their first International League title, beating the Buffalo Bisons to win the Governors' Cup. In 2003, the Bulls defeated the Pawtucket Red Sox to become the first team to win the cup in two consecutive seasons.
The Bulls continue to grow in popularity and in 2006, drew over 11,000 fans to a single game.
Notable Durham Bulls Alumni
- Joe Morgan - Hall of Fame (#18 is retired by the Bulls)
- July 10, 1957 - The Durham Bulls are defeated 7-6 by the first-ever Carolina League All Star Team. 1,964 fans are in attendance.
- 1988 - Bull Durham, a major motion picture starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, debuts, bringing the Bulls national attention. Filmed on-site at the Durham Athletic Park, the famous Snorting Bull which was designed to be used only as a prop for the movie remains a staple of the Bulls' park today.
- June 20, 1998 - First International League game, an 8-2 loss to the Ottawa Lynx
- May 28, 1999 - First International League win, 6-1 over the Ottawa Lynx
- July 23, 2001 - Single-game attendance record of 10,916
- 2001 - Season attendance record of 505,319
- September 11, 2003 - The Bulls become the first team to win back-to-back Governors' Cup titles
Championships and Honors
- 1917 North Carolina State League Champions
- 2002 International League Governors' Cup Champions
- 2003 International League Governors' Cup Champions
- 2009 International League Governors' Cup Champions
|1914||70-50||3rd||James "King" Kelly||none|
|1916||62-51||3rd||Richard Hoffman / Frank Manush||none|
|1917||24-12||1st||Frank Manush||League ceased operations May 30|
|1922||69-58||2nd||Lee Gooch||League Champs|
|1924||74-46||1st||Bill Pierre||none League Champs|
|1925||68-58||2nd||Art Bourg||League Champs|
|1926||73-71||3rd||Art Bourg / Lew McCarty||Lost League Finals|
|1927||48-95||6th||Lew McCarty / Barney Cleveland / George "Possum" Whitted|
|1928||40-91||6th||George "Possum" Whitted|
|1929||85-51||1st||George "Possum" Whitted||Lost League Finals|
|1930||71-68||2nd||George "Possum" Whitted||League Champs|
|1931||56-72||5th||George "Possum" Whitted|
|1932||56-77||6th||George "Possum" Whitted|
|1933||65-76||5th||Bobby Murray / Bill Skiff||none|
|1936||79-63||2nd||Johnny Gooch||Lost League Finals|
|1939||75-65||2nd||Oscar Roettger||Lost in 1st round|
|1940||73-62||4th||Oscar Roettger||League Champs|
|1941||84-53||1st||Bruno Betzel||League Champs|
|1946||80-62||3rd||Floyd Patterson||Lost League Finals|
|1947||70-71||4th||Willie Duke||Lost League Finals|
|1951||84-56||1st||Ace Parker||Lost in 1st round|
|1952||76-59||2nd||Ace Parker||Lost League Finals|
|1954||70-68||4th||Charlie Metro||Lost in 1st round|
|1955||69-69||4th||Frank Skaff||Lost in 1st round|
|1956||84-69||2nd||Johnny Pesky||Lost in 1st round|
|1957||79-61||1st||Bob Mavis||League Champs|
|1959||70-60||3rd||Frank Skaff||Lost in 1st round|
|1962||89-51||1st||Lou Fitzgerald||Lost League Finals|
|1963||78-65||2nd||Billy Goodman||Lost in 1st round|
|1964||54-82||10th||Billy Goodman (50-78) / Walt Matthews (4-4)|
|1965||83-60||2nd||Dave Philley||Lost League Finals|
|1967||74-64||2nd (t)||Clyde McCullough||League Champs|
- Ron Morris: No Bull: The real story of the rebirth of a team and a city, Baseball America, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2017. ISBN 978-1932391664