With a lineage unmatched by even most Major League Baseball teams, and a place in pop culture history and lore forever, Durham Bulls Baseball is a tradition like no other in the summer months that awaits you and at under an hour away from your front door at the Belmont Lake Preserve NC golf community, it won’t be long until you are saying, “Play Ball.”
Dating way back to the 1902, the history of the Durham Bulls baseball franchise is one of the most interesting and storied of any professional sports organization at any level of play. While the most recent run of pro ball in Durham began in 1980, when they became the Bulls and later that decade would gain notoriety through the major motion picture bearing the team’s name, the team originally began play in the North Carolina League as the Durham Tobacconists in April of 1902.
After the initial season of play that league folded, but in the teams’ first appearance under the Durham Bulls name, they would not have too long before they once again were taking the field, as the North Carolina State League (NCSL) formed in late 1912 and at the start of 1913 the Bulls would start playing at Hanes Field, which sits on what would now be part of Duke University’s east campus. The NCSL would cease to exist in May of 1917 due to the start of World War I in leading to a two year hiatus in professional baseball being played in Durham.
After the disbanding of the NCSL and the two years before Durham Bulls Baseball would return to action in 1919 with the formation of the Piedmont League, there would only be one summer (1944) without professional baseball in town until 1972. During this 50 year period, one significant pickup by the franchise would be when they purchased and then began the 1926 season playing their home games at El Toro Park, which would be renamed in 1933 as Durham Athletic Park where they would continue to play at until 1993. It would also be during this time period that Durham Bulls Baseball would first become affiliated with an MLB franchise, as they became part of the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 1932. To the day, they remain an MLB affiliate, just one league below the “bigs,” as the Triple A team in the Tampa Rays organization.
Following their brief merger with the city of Raleigh from 1968-1972 in the New York Mets family as the Raleigh-Durham Mets, pro baseball again left the Triangle area, but Durham Bulls Baseball would return for good in 1980 and become the franchise that is more recognizable than any in the country among the ranks of the minor leagues. The late fall months of 1987 would have much to do with the spike in notoriety for Durham Bulls Baseball as, Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon would star in the huge box office hit, “Bull Durham,” which would be released in 1988 and most of which was filmed at Durham Athletic Park and in the surrounding areas.
In May of 1990, Jim Goodmon would purchase the Durham Bulls Baseball franchise, and announce his plans for a new stadium in what would be known as Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), a beautiful ballpark by the standards of any league that would have an additional 10,000 seats and allow for the team to begin setting attendance records on a near annual basis. Just last season, in 2015 the Durham Bulls Baseball club set their own single season paid attendance record, with 554,788 fans coming through the turnstiles at DBAP last season.
Durham Bulls Baseball is steeped in a rich history that continues to excite their fans and provide great family fun at every one of their home games played. The team also offers many great giveaways and host theme nights at the park throughout the season. For a complete look at Durham Bulls Baseball including their full schedule, ticket information, specials and discounts, and so much more, visit durhambulls.com.