Durham Bulls

From BR Bullpen


Team History[edit]

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[edit]


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.

The Bulls returned to a completely rebuilt DAP in 1940 and continued to play in the Piedmont League through the 1943 season.


The Durham Bulls returned to Durham in 1945 as members of the newly formed Carolina League. The Bulls played their first Carolina League game on April 27, 1945, defeating the Burlington Bees, 5-0.

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 continued to play in the Carolina League until 1968, when the team merged with the Raleigh Capitals to become the Raleigh-Durham Mets. The Mets would fold following the 1971 season.


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.

August 11, 2023 was Bull Sharks Night at DBAP, when team took the field as the Durham Bull Sharks [1]. The team took the field as the Bull Sharks in August 2021 as well [2].


Bull rounds third

Notable Durham Bulls Alumni[edit]

Significant Events[edit]

Championships and Honors[edit]

The Bull Durham Gate Effect[edit]

The team stands for the National Anthem before a game in 2009
  • 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)

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1902 23-39 5th Otis Stocksdale none
1913 65-49 2nd James Kelly none
1914 70-50 3rd James "King" Kelly none
1915 69-52 2nd James Kelly none
1916 62-51 3rd Richard Hoffman / Frank Manush none
1917 24-12 1st Frank Manush League ceased operations May 30
1920 53-65 6th Frank Manush
1921 57-64 5th Frank Manush
1922 69-58 2nd Lee Gooch League Champs
1923 48-74 6th Lee Gooch
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
1937 68-69 5th Paul O'Malley
1938 64-71 6th Bill Hughes
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
1942 65-70 5th Bruno Betzel
1943 44-86 6th Bruno Betzel
1945 59-77 7th Floyd Patterson
1946 80-62 3rd Floyd Patterson Lost League Finals
1947 70-71 4th Willie Duke Lost League Finals
1948 63-79 6th Willie Duke
1949 70-72 6th Ace Parker
1950 73-79 6th Ace Parker
1951 84-56 1st Ace Parker Lost in 1st round
1952 76-59 2nd Ace Parker Lost League Finals
1953 64-75 7th Marv Owen
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
1958 58-79 8th Chuck Kress
1959 70-60 3rd Frank Skaff Lost in 1st round
1960 57-78 6th Stubby Overmire
1961 65-73 5th Al Lakeman none
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
1966 62-76 9th Chuck Churn
1967 74-64 2nd (t) Clyde McCullough League Champs
Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs Hitting Coach Pitching Coach Coach
1980 84-56 2nd Al Gallagher Lost League Finals
1981 70-68 4th (t) Al Gallagher
1982 80-56 3rd Bobby Dews Lost League Finals Bruce Dal Canton
1983 59-78 6th Brian Snitker Leo Mazzone
1984 68-72 5th Brian Snitker Lost League Finals Sonny Jackson Leo Mazzone/Jim Bibby
1985 66-74 5th Harry Bright Bob Porter Mudcat Grant
1986 72-68 3rd (t) Buddy Bailey Larry Jaster
1987 65-75 7th Brian Snitker Randy Ingle Bill Slack
1988 82-58 2nd Buddy Bailey (30-13) / Grady Little (52-45) Joe Pignatano
1989 84-54 1st Grady Little Lost League Finals Inocencio Guerrero Larry Jaster
1990 71-68 4th Grady Little Larry Jaster
1991 79-58 3rd Grady Little Phillip Wellman Larry Jaster Gil Garrido
1992 70-70 3rd Leon Roberts George Threadgill Matt West
1993 69-69 5th Leon Roberts Tack Wilson Matt West
1994 66-70 5th Matt West Rick Albert Bill Slack
1995 63-76 7th Matt West Rick Albert & Brian Snitker
1996 73-66 4th Randy Ingle Lost in 1st round Max Venable Bruce Dal Canton
1997 63-76 6th Paul Runge Wallace Johnson Bill Slack
1998 80-64 3rd Bill Evers Lost League Finals Pete Filson
1999 83-60 2nd Bill Evers Lost League Finals Steve Henderson / Max Oliveras Pete Filson
2000 81-62 4th Bill Evers Lost in 1st round Joe Coleman
2001 74-70 5th Bill Evers Max Oliveras Joe Coleman
2002 80-64 5th Bill Evers League Champs Richie Hebner Joe Coleman
2003 73-67 4th Bill Evers League Champs Richie Hebner Joe Coleman
2004 77-67 4th Bill Evers Lost in 1st round Richie Hebner Joe Coleman
2005 65-79 12th Bill Evers Richie Hebner Joe Coleman
2006 64-78 11th John Tamargo Richie Hebner Joe Coleman
2007 80-63 3rd Charlie Montoyo Lost League Finals Gary Gaetti Xavier Hernandez
2008 74-70 5th (t) Charlie Montoyo Lost League Finals Gary Gaetti Xavier Hernandez
2009 83-61 2nd Charlie Montoyo League Champs Dave Myers Xavier Hernandez
2010 88-55 1st Charlie Montoyo Lost League Finals Dave Myers Xavier Hernandez
2011 80-62 3rd Charlie Montoyo Lost in 1st round Dave Myers Neil Allen
2012 66-78 11th Charlie Montoyo Dave Myers Neil Allen
2013 87-57 1st Charlie Montoyo League Champs Dave Myers Neil Allen
2014 75-69 6th Charlie Montoyo Lost League Finals Dave Myers Neil Allen
2015 74-70 7th(t) Jared Sandberg Dave Myers Kyle Snyder
2016 64-80 12th Jared Sandberg Ozzie Timmons Kyle Snyder
2017 86-56 2nd Jared Sandberg League Champs Ozzie Timmons Kyle Snyder Craig Albernaz Rafael Valenzuela
2018 79-60 2nd Jared Sandberg League Champs Dan DeMent Rick Knapp Ben Johnson
2019 75-64 4th (t) Brady Williams Lost League Finals Dan DeMent Rick Knapp Quinton McCracken
2020 Season cancelled
2021 77-43 1st Brady Williams 9-1 League Champs
AAA Champs
Kyle Wilson Rick Knapp Reinaldo Ruiz, Alberto Bastardo, Jose Gonzalez
2022 86-64 3rd Brady Williams League Champs Will Bradley Brian Reith Reinaldo Ruiz
2023 88-62 2nd Michael Johns Lost League Finals Kenny Hook Brian Reith Reinaldo Ruiz
2024 Morgan Ensberg Kenny Hook Brian Reith Reinaldo Ruiz, Tyler Ladendorf, Brett Ebers

Further Reading[edit]

  • Paul Casella: "Durham Bulls unveil 'Bull Durham' uniforms", mlb.com, December 7, 2021. [3]
  • 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

External Link[edit]

Durham Bulls Baseball Club