The Durham Bulls are a minor league baseball team based in Durham, North Carolina. The team, which plays in the International League, is the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays major-league club. The Bulls play in Durham Bulls Athletic Park, often called the "DBAP" or "D-Bap", located in downtown Durham. The team became internationally famous in 1988 following the release of the movie Bull Durham, which starred Kevin Costner as a veteran catcher, Tim Robbins as a talented young pitcher, and Susan Sarandon as their love interest. The Bulls have also been featured in the film The Rookie.
At the time of Bull Durham, both the real Bulls and their movie counterparts played in the high-A Carolina League, two steps below the current team's position in the Triple-A International League. The Carolina League team relocated and became the Danville 97s in 1998 and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in 1999. The Triple-A leagues expanded by two teams to accommodate affiliates for the major league expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks with the Rays' expansion team becoming the new Durham Bulls franchise. Through twelve seasons in Triple-A, they have already won three Governors' Cups. In 2009, the Bulls won their first Triple-A National Championship.
The first Durham professional baseball franchise officially formed as the Durham Tobacconists on March 18, 1902, with W. G. Bramham, later President of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (Minor League Baseball), as the owner. They took the field for the first time on April 24 in an exhibition game against Trinity College. Their first game in the North Carolina League was at Charlotte on May 5 against the Hornets, and their first home game was against the New Bern Truckers on May 12. The league, however, folded in July, not having played a full season.
In December 1912, the team re-formed as the Durham Bulls in the North Carolina State League. Their first game was on April 24, 1913 at Hanes Field on the Trinity College campus (now the East Campus of Duke University). They defeated the Raleigh Capitals 7-4. On May 30, 1917, however, the North Carolina State League folded due to America's joining of the Allied Powers during World War I. The Bulls were declared league champions, even though the season was shortened to only 36 games.
The Bulls then joined the Piedmont League, a minor league with clubs scattered around Virginia and North Carolina, on October 31, 1919. Seven years later, in 1926, the team moved to its new home, El Toro Park. The park was dedicated on July 26 by the Commissioner of Baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who put on a show by riding a real bull, the team mascot, onto the playing field.
Six years later, in 1932, the team became affiliated with the National League's Philadelphia Phillies, the first of ten teams that the Bulls have been affiliated with. The next year, the city of Durham purchased El Toro Park, renaming it the Durham Athletic Park after the 1933 season, but the Bulls were unable to operate for the 1934 and 1935 seasons due to the Great Depression. Then, on June 17, 1939, the Durham Athletic Park burned to the ground, hours after the Bulls had defeated Portsmouth 7-3. The groundskeeper, Walter Williams, who slept under the stands, was able to escape. In a remarkable two-week turnaround, the Durham Athletic Park was functioning again by July 2, with the old wooden grandstand replaced by concrete and steel. The stadium also included temporary bleachers and seated 1,000 people. The crowd that day saw the Bulls beat the Charlotte Hornets 11-4.
The stadium was completed in April 1940 in time for an exhibition game on April 7 between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, that attracts 5,574 fans. Only 1,587 turned out ten days later for the Bulls' first game of the season. On September 5, 1943, the last-place Bulls played their last Piedmont League game, beating Richmond 15-5. The following year, the Piedmont League became an all-Virginia league, and there was no baseball in Durham in 1944.
In 1945, a second Carolina League formed, and on April 27 the Bulls played their first game in the new league, defeating the Burlington Bees 5-0. Three years later, in September 1948, Tom Wright, a former outfielder with the Bulls, became the first Carolina League player to make the majors when he debuted with the Boston Red Sox. And three years after that, the Bulls made history when their 5-4 loss to the Danville Leafs featured the first black player in Carolina League history, Percy Miller Jr., who played for the Leafs.
Football Hall of Famer Clarence Parker was the Bulls' manager from 1949-52. It would not be until April 18, 1957 that the Bulls would field African-American players. On that day, third baseman Bubba Morton and pitcher Ted Richardson took the field in a loss to Greensboro. That season also saw the first Carolina League All-Star game played in Durham.
In 1968, the Bulls merged with the Raleigh club and formed the Raleigh-Durham Mets, an affiliate of the New York Mets, playing half of its home games in the Durham Athletic Park and half in Raleigh, but before the 1972 season, the team folded and baseball would not return to Durham until 1980. On June 22 of that year, the local CBS affiliate broadcast the Bulls game locally, the first time that the Bulls had ever been broadcast on television. Ten years later, on August 30, 1990, a crowd of 6,202 made the Bulls the first class-A team in history to pass the 300,000 mark in attendance for an entire season.
Team owner Miles Wolff began pushing for a new ballpark for the Bulls in 1988 in order to attract a class-AAA club, but plans for the stadium were pushed back until the new stadium opened in downtown Durham in 1995. Wolff never saw the completion of the new stadium as an owner, as the Bulls were sold in 1991 to Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Company. Capitol president Jim Goodmon initially proposed building the new stadium near Raleigh-Durham International Airport, but after city leaders in Durham offered to renovate the old ballpark or help build a new stadium, the current downtown Durham site was secured.
On July 17, 1992, the Bulls unveiled their new mascot, Wool E. Bull, a moniker submitted by Durham resident Jim Vicker out of a pool of 500, inspired by the otherwise unrelated novelty song oldie, "Wooly Bully". The "E" in his name supposedly stands for "education." The next June, the Bulls retired the number 18 belonging to Joe Morgan, the only Hall of Famer ever to play for the Bulls, who was a member of the 1963 club. Morgan's number remains the only one ever retired by the club, and he attended the ceremony in which his number was retired. The Bulls also retained the snorting Bull used in the movie Bull Durham. The original bull used in the movie and at Durham Athletic Park can be seen hanging on the wall of the concourse at the Bulls' new stadium, Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The new stadium does have a newly built snorting Bull similar to the original. Whenever a Bulls player hits a home run the bull's eyes light up, its tail moves up and down and it snorts steam out of its nose. Whenever a player hits the bull with a home run that player wins a steak dinner at a local restaurant. A fan in the audience during the game will also win a free steak dinner. Unfortunately, on April 16, 2007, high winds tore off a piece of the left side of the bull's head; however. The damage was fixed by that weekend. In 2008 it was announced that the second bull will be replaced by a two-sided bull. The old one will be hung in the concourse, just like its predecessor.
The 1997 season, during which the Bulls were an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, marked their last year in the class-A Carolina League; that franchise spent 1998 in Danville, Virginia as the Danville 97s before moving to their current home of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1999 as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. In 1998 Wolff's dream of attracting a AAA club came true when the Bulls became the AAA affiliate of the newly-formed Tampa Bay Devil Rays, their parent club ever since, and began play in the International League (IL). That year saw the Bulls play their first game outside the United States when they played road games against the Ottawa Lynx, though it would be another year before they recorded their first win in Canada. The 2001 season saw the Bulls set single-game (10,916 on July 23) and full-season (505,319 set on September 1) attendance records. Then, on September 12, 2002, the Bulls won their first IL championship, defeating the Buffalo Bisons 2-0 for the Governors' Cup. Next year, the team became the first in the 119-year history of the championship to sweep back-to-back final playoff series, defeating the Pawtucket Red Sox.
After missing the playoffs for the 2005 and 2006 seasons, the Durham Bulls captured the South Division title with an 80-64 regular season record. The Bulls defeated the Toledo Mud Hens in a three-game sweep during the first round of the playoffs, but were defeated three games to two in the Governors' Cup Final by the Richmond Braves. In 2008, with a record of 74-70 the Bulls would once again win the South Division. After defeating the Louisville Bats three games to one in the first round, the Bulls again lost the championship, this time in four games to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. In 2009, they would win the division for a third consecutive season with an 83-61 record. Facing the Louisville Bats in the first round again, the Bulls were victorious in the series, winning in five games. The third time was the charm for the Bulls in the Governors' Cup final. They dethroned the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who had beaten them the previous season to win the championship. Sweeping the Yankees in three games, the Bulls won their third league championship since joining the International League. The Bulls advanced to the Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game against the champions of the Pacific Coast League for the first time in the team's history, as there had been no such game that took place at the time of the Bulls' previous two Governors' Cup championships. Facing the Memphis Redbirds, the Bulls would win their first class championship, scoring the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom half of the eleventh inning.
On August 19th, 2010 the Bulls won their fourth straight division championship. Almost two weeks later the Bulls set their Triple-A wins record winning their 84th game of the 2010 season.
Explorer Post 50Edit
The Durham Bulls also created a program after they went to Triple-A status called Explorer Post 50. Explorer Post 50 is a program that is similar to Explorer Post 5 which is located at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. Explorer Post 50 is a youth-based television production group with students you have completed middle-school and are 14 – 20 years old. Explorer Post 50 provides all of the camera work for Durham Bulls TV on RTN, replays and "fan cams" on the video board in left field, and the high-lights of all of the Durham Bulls home games. Explorer teaches youth how to produce a live broadcast, including graphics, replays, graphic scores aka "Fox Box", camera work, producing, and directing. Two students from Explorer Post 50 have been hired by ESPN, one at ESPN regional and another at ESPN Master Control. Starting in the 2008 season, Explorer Post 50 hands out academic scholarships to the graduating seniors of the program who are on their way to college. (http://www.durhambulls.com/team/press_release.html?id=654; http://www.durhambulls.com/community/explorer_post.html)
- 1917 - In first place (24-12) when league ceased play due to World War I
- 1922 - Won second half of the season (69-58 overall) and defeated the High Point Furniture Makers in the play-off to take the title
- 1924 - Won pennant with a 74-46 record
- 1925 - Won first half of the season (68-58 overall) and defeated the Winston-Salem Twins in the playoff to take the title
- 1926 - Won second half of the season (73-71 overall) but lost to the Greensboro Patriots in the playoff
- 1929 - Won pennant with an 85-51 record
- 1930 - Finished second (71-68), defeated the first-place Henderson Gamecocks in a play-off
- 1936 - Finished second (79-63), lost to the first-place Norfolk Tars in the play-offs
- 1939 - Finished second (75-65), lost to the Rocky Mount Red Sox in the play-offs
- 1940 - Finished fourth (73-62) but defeated the Richmond Colts and Rocky Mount Red Sox to take play-off title
- 1941 - Won pennant (84-53), defeated the Norfolk Tars and the Greensboro Patriots to take play-off title
- 1946 - Finished third (80-62), lost to the Raleigh Capitals in the play-off finals
- 1951 - Finished first (84-56), lost to the Reidsville Luckies in the first round of the play-offs
- 1952 - Finished second (76-59), lost to the Reidsville Luckies in the play-off finals
- 1954 - Finished fourth (70-68), lost to the Fayetteville Highlanders in the first round of the play-offs
- 1955 - Finished fourth (69-69), lost to the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms in the first round of the play-offs
- 1956 - Finished second (84-69), lost to the Danville Leafs in the first round of the play-offs
- 1957 - Won first half of the season (79-61 overall) and defeated the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms in the playoff to take the title
- 1959 - Finished third (70-60), lost to the Wilson Tobs in the first round of the play-offs
- 1962 - Finished first (89-51), lost to the Kinston Eagles in the play-off finals
- 1963 - Finished second in the West Division (78-65), lost to the Greensboro Yankees in the first round of the play-offs
- 1965 - Finished first in the West Division (83-60), lost to the Portsmouth Tides in the play-off finals
- 1967 - Finished first in the West Division (74-64), defeated the Portsmouth Tides in the play-off finals
- 1968 - Finished first in the East Division (83-56), lost to the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms in the play-off finals
- 1969 - Finished second in the East Division (79-62), defeated the Burlington Senators in the play-off finals
- 1980 - Finished first in the NC Division (84-56), lost to the Peninsula Pilots in the play-off
- 1982 - Finished second in the South Division (80-56), lost to the Alexandria Dukes in the play-off finals
- 1989 - Finished first in the South Division (84-54), lost to the Prince William Cannons in the play-off finals
- 1994 - Won second half of season in the South Division (66-70 overall), lost to the Winston-Salem Warthogs in the play-offs
(note: the team played as the Raleigh-Durham Mets in 1968 and the Raleigh-Durham Phillies in 1969)
International League The Bulls have won the Governors' Cup (the championship of the IL) three times, and have played in the championship series seven times.
- 1998 - Lost to Buffalo
- 1999 - Lost to Charlotte
- 2002 - Defeated Buffalo
- 2003 - Defeated Pawtucket
- 2007 - South Division Champions; Lost to Richmond
- 2008 - South Division Champions; Lost to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
- 2009 - South Division Champions; Defeated Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
- 2010 - South Division Champions; Lost to Columbus Clippers
The most notable baseball player to have once played for the Bulls is Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. Morgan spent part of the 1963 season with the Bulls before earning a promotion to the Houston Colt 45s (Houston Astros). His number 18 was retired by the team on August 9, 2002, during a postgame ceremony which he attended. Danny Gans, a famous Las Vegas entertainer, once played for the Bulls and played the third baseman in Bull Durham before suffering a career ending injury.
Other famous Bulls who are currently or were once in the majors include:
- Jonny Gomes
- Jason Hammel
- Edwin Jackson
- Steve Avery
- Rocco Baldelli
- Joe Beimel
- Jim Bibby
- Jeff Blauser
- Bob Boone
- Jorge Cantú
- Norm Charlton
- Lawrence "Crash" Davis
- Steve Cox
- Elijah Dukes
- Julio Franco
- Ron Gant
- Jose Guillen
- Toby Hall
- Michel Hernandez
- Aubrey Huff
- Dan Johnson
- Chipper Jones
- Andruw Jones
- David Justice
- Ryan Klesko
- Wes Livengood
- Mickey Lolich
- Javier López
- Greg Luzinski
- Kevin Millwood
- Joe Morgan
- Jim Morris
- Johnny Pesky
- Shawn Riggans
- Juan Salas
- Jason Schmidt
- Rusty Staub
- Mitch Talbot
- Johnny Vander Meer
- Randy Winn
- Delmon Young
Current Rays who were once Bulls:
- Grant Balfour
- Carl Crawford
- J.P. Howell
- John Jaso
- Evan Longoria
- Jeff Niemann
- Fernando Perez
- David Price
- Justin Ruggiano
- James Shields
- Andy Sonnanstine
- B.J. Upton
- Dan Wheeler
- Ben Zobrist
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