Lesson #109: Durham Athletic Park

Today was the day. Bull Durham Day 2010.* Every single one of my sporting friends watches this movie as a sort of spring tradition. Every year around the time that the baseball season gets underway, we break out Bull Durham.

And in honour of the film, it’s time to take a look at Durham Athletic Park.

Durham Athletic Park was opened in 1939, though there had been a park in existence on the location from 1926. It burned down in early 1939, which is really not all that uncommon for a ballpark at that time period.** Anyway…the park was decommissioned in 1995 when the Bulls moved to Durham Bulls Athletic Park (which incidentally was designed by the same guys who designed the home stadium of my team, the Baltimore Orioles). Its measurements were 330 to left, 410 to centre and 305 to right field and the park had a capacity of 5000.*** From 1938 – 1943, the park was home to the Durham Bulls of the Piedmont League and then from 1945 – 1967 and from 1980 – 1994 of the Carolina League. From 1945-1967, the Bulls were affiliates of the Tigers, Astros and Mets, but from 1980 until 1997 (three years after the Bulls moved to their new park), they were affiliated with the Atlanta Braves. The ballpark currently still stands, but is no longer in regular use.****

Autobiographical note: I love Bull Durham more than any other sports movie in existence. Not just because of the impending start of the baseball season, but because I truly love baseball. The movie is 20+ years old, but baseball is still the same. I spent some of the best summers of my life working in the minor leagues and even though this movie was released when I was 8, it illustrates perfectly what that life is. I have known those guys and I have been in those dive bars and I have slid on the tarp during rain storms. I enjoy major league baseball in the same way that I enjoy any professional sport of which I’m a fan, but I love minor league baseball because it’s not about ridiculous ticket prices and $8 beers; it’s about families having a great time at the park and guys who would be Joe Hardy.

*I love my friends. I posted on my Facebook update that in the craziness of my mid-week (my best friend’s birthday and Desmond’s long-awaited return on LOST on Tuesday, my friend’s return to the city and Rocky Horror with my housemates on Wednesday and last night’s catching up and return trip to Rocky Horror — the stage manager in me refuses to see a good show just once…there’s a fascination in finding the details) I had forgotten that today was the day that Bull Durham got pulled out and a bunch of my sport guys went “wait, there’s an official day for this?!?” and seemed horrified that they didn’t know about this event. I had to reassure them that it was not, in fact, an official day, just the day that a friend and I had decided we’d watch it.

**Parks in those days, unless they were new, were made mostly of wood. I mean, the famed Orioles player-manager John McGraw (and a Boston Beaneaters player) essentially burned Boston’s South End Grounds to the ground when they started a riot in 1894. Incidentally, this is a fact I knew offhand. Yes, I know *way* too much about baseball history.

***The first minor league baseball park I ever worked in measured 330 down both lines and 392 to centre with about a 4500 (ish) capacity.

****For more information, see here and here.

One thought on “Lesson #109: Durham Athletic Park

  1. Rachel says:

    Okay. Let me just say this: we’re going to make this a national holiday. My dad loved the idea (obviously) and is encouraging us to do so. We can start the committee once you’re stateside, but I think we need to host some events, maybe a convention… I’m thinking this is going to get HUGE.

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