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Top 10 Durham Bulls Facts You Didn’t Know
The Durham Bulls are one of Triple-A Baseball’s exciting teams every sports fan needs to learn about. In fact, the North Carolina-based franchise is a high-level farm club for the Tampa Bay Rays. Any Durham fan that bleeds Bulls blue and yellow will know every information possible, from the team winning two National Championships (2009 and 2017) to Wool E. Bull being the official mascot. However, there are new Durham Bulls facts that many baseball supporters never knew or never heard of in their lives. For details on what facts baseball fans rarely knew about, please refer to Top 10 Durham Bulls Facts You Didn’t Know below!
10: Bulls Stadium is One of the Two Active Triple-A Parks to be the Home for College Baseball
Durham Bulls Athletic Park is perhaps the most visited Minor League venue in the Tar Heel State. One of the main reasons was due to the team’s in-state rivalry with the Charlotte Knights. Another example is that the Durham Bulls venue is surrounded by local shops and restaurants. One more thing to point out is that Durham Bulls Athletic Park would likely sell out if a Rays player like Wander Franco plays for the Triple-A club as a rehab stint. But did you know that the North Carolina stadium also serves as the permanent home for the Duke Blue Devils baseball program?
Every spring, Duke University plays its baseball games on the same field as the Bulls. The ballpark is about a 5-7 minute drive from the school’s main campus. Durham Bulls Athletic Park is pretty much the only college baseball stadium where spectators can see the huge Bulls sign (left field) from their seats. Along with their presence on Durham’s baseball field, the Duke Blue Devils advanced to the Super Regionals Tournament four times since the 21st century (2016, 2018, 2019, 2021). The Bulls ballpark is one of the two Triple-A venues to host full-time major college games, along with the Utah Utes and Smith’s Ballpark (Salt Lake Bees).
9: Durham is Tied for Most Appearances in the National Championship Game
The Durham Bulls are one of the country’s most successful teams in the Minor Leagues. They have played in the National Championship Game multiple times since its debut in 2006. In addition, Durham has won seven International League titles since its inception in 1980. But in rare situations, reaching the National Championship Game four times in less than a decade can be a challenging and rewarding achievement. Believe it or not, the Bulls are tied for most appearances in the National Championship with four (along with Columbus Clippers).
Unlike the World Series in the big leagues, the championship event was just a single game and not a series. Anyway, Durham made its contest debut in 2009 when the team defeated the Memphis RedBirds 5-4 in extra innings. The Bulls returned to the National Championship four years later, only to lose against the Omaha Storm Chasers 2-1. In 2017, Durham won its second title when the club managed to beat the familiar for (Memphis) 5-3. One year later, the Bulls and RedBirds met again for the championship rematch, as Memphis got revenge with the final score of 14-4.
8: The Bulls Had Another Parent Club Before the Rays Took Over in 1998
The Durham Bulls have one of Triple-A Baseball’s longest running farm club partnerships. Since the late 1990s, the Bulls have served as the top-level affiliate for the Tampa Bay Rays. Since that partnership began, the Rays have made two trips to the World Series (2008 and 2020) and reached the playoffs seven times. But interestingly, the Bulls had another parent club before Tampa Bay took over in 1998. In fact, the North Carolina franchise was collaborating with a National League powerhouse.
When the Durham Bulls era began in 1980, the team was a Class-A affiliate for the Atlanta Braves. During that timeline, the Braves claimed a 1995 World Championship and won the National League pennant five times in the 1990s. Also, Durham was about a 1.5-hour flying time from Atlanta. However, the Braves’ pact with the Bulls ended in 1998 as the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays became the Tar Heel franchise’s new Triple-A partner. Today, Atlanta has a highest-level farm club in the Gwinnett Stripers located within the state.
7: The Iconic Bulls Sign at Left Field was Inspired by Another SIgn at Ebbets Field
There are some Triple-A stadiums in the nation that have one feature baseball fans can’t find anywhere else. Fifth Third Field in Toledo has a unique seating section as right field called The Roost, while First Horizon Park in Nashville has the guitar-shaped videoboard in center field. Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City has the view of the mountains, while Huntington Park in Columbus has the AEP Pavilion located at left field. Notably, for the Bulls, Durham Bulls Athletic Park has a famous Bull Sign located in left field. But did you know that the iconic Bulls sign was inspired by another sign at Ebbets Field?
First of all, Ebbets Field served as the longtime home for the Brooklyn Dodgers until their relocation to Los Angeles in the 1950s. Anyway, the defunct stadium had an Abe Stark sign that read “Hit Sign, Win Suit” at right field; any player that hit the signage would win new clothes. But during the production for Bull Durham in the late 20th century, Director Ron Shelton decided to find a unique way to pay homage to Ebbets Field.
So he incorporated the similar Abe Stark sign at the Durham ballpark, but with a huge bull sign. If a player ends up with a base hit on that signage, then he would win a free steak. Today, the iconic bull sign still exists at Durham Bulls Athletic Park as a reminder of the old times from the former Brooklyn stadium.
6: Durham Stadium Served as the Official Site for the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game
Over the past nearly three decades, Durham Bulls Athletic Park has witnessed some pretty exciting baseball events. For example, the Bulls have won multiple National Championship crowns since 2009. In addition, the North Carolina venue has hosted over a couple no-hitters in its lifetime so far. The Bulls are one of several professional baseball teams from the Tar Heel State, along with the Charlotte Knights, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Down East Wood Ducks, Carolina Mudcats, and Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. But for Durham Bulls Athletic Park, it was the official site for the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game.
For the first and only time in its history, the current Bulls stadium got to host the Minor League’s Midsummer Classic. The event’s main logo incorporated some of Durham’s most famous attractions, like the tall water tower. Some of the most high-profile players who took part in the All–Star Game were OF Joc Pederson (Albuquerque), INF Chris Taylor (Tacoma), and Relief RHP Liam Hendriks (Buffalo). Team International went on to beat Team Pacific Coast by the final score of 7-3. The 2014 event was not the first time North Carolina hosted the Triple-A All-Star Game, as Charlotte received that same honor in 2016.
5: Durham Bulls Athletic Park Hosted 4.5 No-Hitters Since its Opening in 1995
Accomplishing a no-hitter is one of baseball’s rarest gems spectators can witness in their lives. This achievement takes place when a starting pitcher goes through nine innings without giving up any base hits. In more rare situations, no-hitters can occur in a combined effort if a starting pitcher is unable to continue due to injury or ejection. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for a pitcher is tossing a perfect game, where a pitcher throws nine innings without any hits or baserunners. But for Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the North Carolina stadium has hosted 4.5 no-hitters since its opening in 1995.
In July 2006, the Bulls tossed a combined no-no (led by Jason Hammel) against the Columbus Clippers 4-1. Six years later, Durham was on the wrong side of a combined no-hitter as the Indianapolis Indians pitching group (guided by Justin Wilson) achieved the feat in North Carolina. In April 2014, the Bulls collected another combined no-no (this time led by Mike Montgomery) against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. One month later, the Rochester Red Wings tossed a combined no-hitter (guided by Trevor May) in a game finished in New York due to a game suspension in North Carolina via wet weather. In 2019, the Bulls threw their third combined no-no of the century (led by Arturo Reyes) against the Syracuse Mets.
4: Bulls Have Five League MVP Winners Since Franchise Began in 1980
Winning a major award is considered a big deal in professional baseball, especially for those who are trying to get to the big leagues. If a person wins Pitcher of the Year or Rookie of the Year, then this accomplishment could sky-rocket his chances of getting called up to the Major Leagues. In addition, that person might face the odds of receiving an invite to Spring Training (Florida or Arizona) from his team’s parent club. Luckily, for the Bulls, they have made Durham proud by winning five league MVPs since their inception in 1980. As a matter of fact, the team has won player awards along with multiple National Championships.
In 1999, INF Steve Cox claimed International League MVP honors by batting 0.341 with 25 home runs and 127 runs batted in. Two years later, C Toby Hall won the MVP Award with a 0.335 batting average with 19 long balls and 72 RBIs. In 2006, 1B Kevin Witt received the League MVP trophy by batting 0.291 with 36 home runs and 99 runs batted in. Four years later, INF Dan Johnson won MVP recognition with a 0.303 batting average with 30 long balls and 95 RBIs. In 2011, OF Russ Canzler earned MVP honors by batting 0.314 with 18 home runs and 83 runs batted in.
3: The Team Won a Court Appeal Relating to Foul Ball Injury in 2020
Injuries and accidents can happen to anyone without warning at any time, especially at a baseball stadium. Those injuries range from stubbing a toe on a hard door to dropping food on the floor. However, injuries resulting from those accidents can sometimes lead those situations to the courthouse. Unfortunately, that happened at Durham Bulls Athletic Park as the season was getting close to playoff time. In August 2015, a 15-year-old female spectator (Angelina DeBlasio) was hit by a foul ball during a Triple-A game.
It all started when DeBlasio was sitting at the picnic area (left field foul line) with her family during a Bulls contest. Then, all of a sudden, she was hit in the face by a foul ball and suffered teeth and jaw damage. To make matters worse, DeBlasio had to undergo surgery to repair the teeth and jaw. Even though her family eventually filed a lawsuit against the Durham Bulls, the court actually ruled in favor of the team because they believed DeBlasio assumed the risk of injury when coming to the stadium that day. Also, the ballpark had extended protected netting as well as numerous signs warning fans of foul balls.
2: The Durham Bulls were Named After a Tobacco Company, Not a Movie
Durham is one of the most commercially acclaimed baseball franchises in the Minor Leagues. The home stadium is known for the iconic bull sign located at left field where players get a free steak for hitting the signage. In addition, the Durham ballpark has a 360 concourse where fans can walk around the stadium without missing any game action. What makes the Bulls a fan-friendly Triple-A team is that the stadium is surrounded by restaurants and shops where guests can visit before and after games. But did you know that the Durham Bulls were named after a tobacco company and not a movie?
During the late 19th century, there was a tobacco company that was based in Durham, North Carolina. The firm’s entrepreneur, John Green, came up with Bull Durham Tobacco Company after seeing a marketing campaign while on a business trip in Europe. Green witnessed a condiment company (based in Durham, United Kingdom) that was using a bull as its main mascot. Therefore, the American businessman decided to incorporate that same animal as his tobacco firm’s official brand. Since that new marketing campaign took effect, the company’s image became so popular that a baseball team and a motion picture were named after the 1800s company.
1: The Triple-A Club Did Not Become a Popular U.S. Attraction Until the Late 1980s
The Durham Bulls are perhaps the most widely known baseball team in not only Triple-A Baseball, but also in the Minor Leagues. The club won two National Championship Games and appeared in the final round four times since 2009. Another thing to point out is that their home stadium hosted the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game along with the 2012 National Championship Game (Reno Aces over Pawtucket Red Sox). However, the Durham Bulls did not become a popular attraction until the late 1980s. When the franchise began operations in 1980, Durham was just another one of those normal farm clubs for a Major League team.
That is, until 1988, when a theatrical release film was made in honor of the North Carolina club. That film is called Bull Durham, which was a comedic and romantic take on the Minor League franchise. Big-name stars have appeared in the film such as Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams), Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption), and Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise). Upon its release, Bull Durham was a huge draw at the box office and was named one of the best baseball films of all time. Today, fans can get some pieces from the movie at the North Carolina stadium with the bull sign at left field along with throwback uniforms on select nights.