The IL Files: Durham


All season, teams will come to NBT Bank Stadium to stand against the Syracuse Chiefs.  They will don jerseys emblazoned with animals….they will wield baseball bats of ash and maple….and they will attempt to make periodic contact with a pentagonal white object that they refer to as “home.”

They all have secrets.  And those secrets are found in…..

File cabinet

The IL Files

Team:  Durham Bulls

Location:  Durham, North Carolina

Mascot: Wool E. Bull (The E stands for education)


Joined the IL: 1998.

How?:  The Bulls were a Triple-A expansion franchise when the Devil Rays were added to Major League Baseball

A.K.A.: From 1902 through 1967, the team was called the Durham Bulls.  In 1968, the name changed to the Raleigh-Durham Mets.  The next year, it became the Raleigh-Durham Phillies.  That worked so well, the name changed again in 1970 to the Raleigh-Durham Triangles (their logo was not a yield sign).  Then, Bull Man beat Triangle Man for good and the team became the Bulls for good in ’81.

Other Leagues:  Durham played in the Class D North Carolina State League from 1913 to 1917.  The team transitioned to the Piedmont League from 1920 until 1943.  After not playing in ’44, the team joined the Carolina League in ’45 until its run ended in ’97.

Notable managers:  1956–Jonny Pesky, for whom the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park is named.  1989-91–Grady Little, at whom hateful names were screamed from every spot in Fenway Park.  1928-1932–George “Possum” Whitted, who wasn’t lying in the weeds when his team won the league title in 1930.

Notable players:  Bob Boone–Hit .300 in 80 games with the Raleigh-Durham Phillies in 1969 while playing third base (like his son Aaron, who may have caused one of those Grady Little epithets).  Joe Morgan–The only Durham player in the Major-League Hall of Fame.  Ron Gant–Led the Carolina League with 20 homers in 1986 before making his Major-League debut in 1987 with the Braves, where he played on back-to-back World Series teams.

Record holders:  Woody Fair had 161 RBIs in 1946, the most ever for a Durham player.  Johnny Vander Meer, the only player to throw back-to-back MLB no-hitters, struck out 295 for Durham in 1936.

Back-of-the-file:  In 1922, to win their first-ever championship, the Bulls beat the High Point Furniture Makers for the Piedmont League title….the Bulls host the ACC Baseball Championship this year from May 22-26…this is the only blog post in history that does mention the movie “Bull Durham” when talking about the team….alphabetically, the last player to play for the Bulls is Andy Zwirchitz…

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