- 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 1998-2019; Triple-A East 2021; International League 2022-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/Tampa Bay Rays 1998-present
- Ballpark: East Durham Baseball Park 1909-1925; Durham Athletic Park 1926-1933, 1936-1994; Durham Bulls Athletic Park 1995-present
The Durham Bulls, of the Triple-A International League and briefly in Triple-A East, are not the franchise featured in Bull Durham (1988) - contrary to what one might think. The Tampa Bay Rays farmhands play their home games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, NC.
The film helped create a boom-to-bust cycle for those Bulls, who played in the Carolina League from 1980 through 1997. The circuit was in Class A when they joined it and became Class A Advanced - also known as "High-A" - when the level was divided in 1990. They became the first Class A franchise to draw 300,000 in one season, but that led to a bigger stadium to attract a higher-level franchise. They moved into the new playpen in 1995 but were bumped when Durham and its new park landed a Triple-A expansion team that started play in 1998. The erstwhile Bulls are now the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The new Bulls and the Rays are each other's only Triple-A partner ever.
Durham-Raleigh baseball history has usually been about rivalry, but they shared a Carolina League team from 1968 through 1971. Since the 1990s, though, Bulls ownership hasn't waived territorial rights, which is why the Carolina Mudcats settled for Zebulon, after attempting to bring baseball back to Raleigh.
The Bulls play Copa de la Diversión Hispanic engagement campaign games as Cervezas de Durham (Durham Beers).
Durham Baseball History
The North Carolina State League resurrected Durham baseball 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 its 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 cut short, the Durham Bulls were crowned the final champions of the circuit.
The Bulls returned to Durham 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, rebuilt, and renamed the Durham Athletic Park. The Bulls played at the DAP until June 17, 1939, when the stadium burned to the ground. It 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 Black player in the Carolina League. The Bulls would not have Black athletes on their team until April 18, 1957, when third baseman Bubba Morton and left-handed pitcher Ted Richardson became the first Blacks to play for them. In their first game with the Bulls, Morton went hitless and Richardson took the loss against the Greensboro Patriots, 4-1.
The Bulls returned to Durham Athletic Par on April 15, 1980 - the genesis of the franchise that would find fame on the silver screen, and the first time minor league baseball had been played in Durham since 1971. Later that season, the local CBS affiliate aired the June 22 game - marking the first time a Durham Bulls game was televised. 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 season, Bulls management began discussion of building a 10,000-to-12,000-seat stadium in order to attract a 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 into 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.
In anticipation of the 2022 season, the Bulls unveiled new uniforms modelled on those used in the movie Bull Durham.
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 550,000 in a single season, and on June 15, 2019, reported a house one-game record of 12,000.
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 consecutive cups.
The Bulls continued to grow in popularity and in 2006, drew over 11,000 fans to a single game.
Notable Durham Bulls Alumni
- 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.
- 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
The Bull Durham Gate Effect
- 1987 217,012
- 1988 271,650 (Bull Durham opened June 15th)
- 1989 272,202
- 1990 300,499 (first Class A team ever to draw 300K)
- 1991 301,240
- 1992 280,994
- 1993 305,692
- 1994 254,266
- 1995 390,486 (first season in Durham Bulls Athletic Park)
- 1996 365,445
- 1997 381,589
- 1998 491,391 (Triple-A comes to Durham)
|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 (25-42) / Lew McCarty (48-29)||Lost League Finals|
|1927||48-95||6th||Lew McCarty (25-31) / Barney Cleveland (10-17) / George "Possum" Whitted (13-47)|
|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 (28-44) / Bill Skiff (37-32)||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|
- Paul Casella: "Durham Bulls unveil 'Bull Durham' uniforms", mlb.com, December 7, 2021. 
- 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