On a day in which Nashville would take on the Sea Gulls in Mobile in the second game of the series, the local newspapers were more agog about the trade of first baseman Gene Paulette to the St. Louis Browns. It was August 20, 1915, and the Vols were seeking help as the season drew to a close, needing help to close the seven-game gap the New Orleans Pelicans had over them.
He would not join the Browns until their spring training camp in 1916, as Nashville sorely needed his .297 batting average to keep the Vols in the race for the pennant. It was a four-player-for-one deal, with two names announced immediately by St. Louis and two at a later date. But two of the players involved in the trade, Dick Kauffman of the Atlanta Crackers, who would take over Paulette’s position at first base, and Gus Williams of Toronto, who would lead the Southern Association in doubles with 33 the following season, would play integral parts in Nashville’s regular season championship the following year, the fourth pennant for Nashville in twenty years.
Paulette had played in ten games with the New York Giants in 1911. That was the year the Giants played the Philadelphia Athletics, losing the Series four games to two. Even though Paulette did not play in any of the six games, he earned a player’s share of World Series proceeds, totaling $609.10.
During 1912 and 1913, he was with the Mobile ball club.
It was his second season with Nashville, having hit for a .260 average in 1914. However, his play at first base continued to improve, as did his batting average, making him a valuable commodity that Rickey wanted. Paulette was considered the best first baseman in the Southern Association, and almost everyone had him pegged on their mythical All-Star team.
Almost immediately, there was a report there might be a hiccup in the plan. Williams had what was called a “fat contract” that Nashville could not handle, and a future Hall of Fame member and famous baseball man on so many levels, Branch Rickey, would be stepping in to resolve the issue.
Rickey was the St. Louis Brown manager, except for Sundays when Jimmy Austin, a Browns infielder, would step in. Rickey made it known that the deal would happen, and he was looking forward to finalizing everything in Atlanta the following week when the Vols would be visiting the Crackers, and he would sign Paulette to a contract.
Paulette signed with the Browns on August 28, and Rickey completed the deal. He and Browns owner Robert “Colonel” Hedges were satisfied that it was a great deal for the major league team. Hedges would not be around to find out, as he sold the club to Phil Ball, who moved Rickey into the front office.
The trade did not work out well for the Browns, at least for 1916. Paulette did not make the major league club and was sent to Memphis, where he batted .286. He returned to St. Louis for five games at the end of the season and remained with the Browns for only twelve games in 1917 when he was playing behind a future Hall of Famer, George Sisler.
Traded to the Cardinals, he split the 1919 season with the Cardinals and Phillies before a final season in 1920 in Philadelphia, where he batted .288.
While he was with the Cardinals, Paulette met some shady characters, and when he needed money in 1919, Paulette cooperated with two gamblers and agreed to fix games in their favor. A letter obtained by Phillies owner William Baker written by Paulette was incriminating evidence of his actions.
In question was a game between the Chicago Cubs and Phillies on August 31, 1920, and newly appointed Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis had questions. When Paulette did not appear as ordered for follow-up questioning by Commissioner Landis, who was dealing with the Black Sox Scandal, on March 24, 1921, Paulette became the first player permanently banned from the game by the baseball czar.
As a point of reference, Landis did not ban the players from the Black Sox scandal until August 3.
His baseball career ended, and Paulette found work with the railroad in Little Rock, Arkansas. Born in Centralia, Illinois, in 1891, he died of a heart attack on February 8, 1966, at 74.
On August 20,1915, the day the Paulette trade was announced, in an effort to halt their losing streak, the Mobile batters drew lots to determine the lineup in that day’s game against Nashville.
With twelve hits against nine for the Vols, Mobile outhits their opponent but still loses by a score of 7-5. The lottery lineup failed, as ultimately did the career of Gene Paulette.
Note: Image Courtesy Encyclopedia of Arkansas (https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/gene-paulette-12519/)
The Sporting News Baseball Players Contract Cards Collection