The Oakland Commuters were a minor league baseball team that played in the California League, the California State League and the Pacific Coast League from 1901 to 1915. Largely forgotten today, they were nomads in a time before Oakland had a permanent ballpark for them. This is their story.
The Commuters received their name because they lacked a homefield. For their entire existence, they bounced around ballparks such as Freeman’s Park, Idora Park and Dover Street Park. Their first roster consisted mostly of players who were from the Bay Area. Youngy Johnson, Cy Russell, Julie Streib, George Croll and Truck Eagen all hailed from San Francisco while Doc Moskiman and George Babbitt came from Oakland. In their inaugural season of 1901, the Commuters won 63 games and lost 95, good for fourth place in the California League.
They were led by Moskiman’s 29 victories and Streib’s 152 hits. A curious situation happened that year when after pitching in four games, George Borchers abruptly left the club. For the next week no one knew where he had gone with rumors flying around, one more outlandish that the other. After owner J. Cal Ewing hired private investigators, it was discovered that he had been given money to pitch for a team in Ogden, Utah and elected to follow the greener pasture. For the next three years, the Commuter’s statistics and wins have been lost to time. But their story was not yet over.
In 1902, the team changed its name to the Clamdiggers. Still playing in the CL, the Clamdigger’s record in 1902 is unknown. The next year, they changed their name back to the Commuters and they entered the PCL. They went 115-110 in 1905, good for fourth place in the PCL, and featured a tremendous pitching staff. Jim Buchanan led the team with 33 wins while Henry Schmidt followed with 26 wins of his own. Both Doc Moskiman and Oscar Graham paced the pitching staff with 19 wins each. Moskiman and Bill Dunleavy led the club with four home runs as the team itself blasted 17 homers during the season.
The Commuters split the 1905 season between the CL and the PCL. After going 5-26 in the CL, they went 103-119 in the PCL. They had two managers that year with Walt McMemony leading the club in the CSL while George Van Haltren took the reins in the PCL. Oscar Graham led the club with 28 wins while Ham Iburg won 22 times with a 2.04 ERA. Henry Schmidt and Willie Hogan paced the team with 18 and 12 wins respectively. Once again, Bill Dunleavy led the team with six of its ten home runs.
The Commuters again split time between the two leagues in 1906 and 1907. The 1906 season was one of the worst in franchise history, with the team winning just six games in the CSL while going 79-106 in the PCL. Oscar Graham led the team with 25 victories with a 2.71 ERA while Eli Cates won 24 contests with a 2.60 ERA. The team hit only five home runs in 1906 with no one hitting more than one.
The 1907 season was slightly better, with the team going 97-101 in the PCL. Three pitchers won 20 or more games: Lucky Wright (25), Eli Cates (21) and Willie Hogan (20). Eli Cates led the club with a 2.19 ERA while Truck Eagan slammed an incredible 10 home runs. The team only played in the CSL in 1908, going 4-71, and after a 2-3 1915 campaign the club folded.