Gene Desautels was born in Worcester, Mass on June 13, 1907 and had played baseball by the age of six. His brother Fred wanted to be a pitcher and drafted Gene to catch for him. Gene never had a chance to try another position. and by age 14 was helping out as batting practice catcher for Rockdale, in the Blackstone Valley League. He had entered a vocational school, planning to specialize in textile dyes, but former Red Sox manager, Jack Barry talked him into going to high school and later to Holy Cross. 

After graduating with his bachelor of philosophy degree in June 1930, “Red” Desautels joined the Tigers and made his major-league debut in the second game of a June doubleheader against the Red Sox. He was valued much more for his catching talents and work with the pitchers than for his bat.

Come 1931, he dropped down a notch and became the fourth catcher on the Tigers depth chart. Consequently, he played most of the year for Columbus of the American Association, and got more work in. Gene got into three September games with the big-league club, managing just one single in 11 at-bats.

He played in Detroit for the next two years, again in a reserve role, during 1932. He was with the ball club but sat on the bench for a full 100 games, before getting his first start. He caught in 30 games in 1933, but his stick work was still problematic. He hit .236 in 1932 but only .143 in 1933.

When Mickey Cochrane took over as catcher-manager for the Tigers in 1934, it was back to the American Association for Gene. He was optioned to Toledo in early April and spent the full year catching for the Mud Hens. He then got in a full year of work with the Hollywood Stars in 1935. 

Gene found himself a Hollywood Star on the silver screen, too. The final scene in the 1935 motion picture "Alibi Ike"  was shot at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, starring Joe E. Brown and Olivia DeHavilland, but included more than a dozen ballplayers including Gene. 

When the Stars moved to San Diego and became the Padres in 1936, Gene really picked it up, hitting at a .319 clip in 480 at-bats over 148 games. In September 1936, the Boston Red Sox purchased him and joining Gene from San Diego on the 1937 Red Sox roster, was Padres second baseman Bobby Doerr. 

A few days before the 1937 season opened, Gene returned to Worcester and saw his Red Sox shut out the Holy Cross Crusaders, 5-0. After Rick Ferrell was traded to the Senators in June, Gene became Boston’s first-string catcher. He played in close to two-thirds of the games and batted .243. In 1938, and had his best season, batting .291, driving in 48 runs and even hitting his first two major-league home runs. 

He was never a star backstop and the Red Sox simply lacked great catchers in those days. Gene and Johnny Peacock made up an adequate but not brilliant catching staff in 1937. Gene started the season dismally, hitting well under .200 for the first couple of months, but was considered a solid defensive catcher, in whom the pitchers had confidence.

According to Tom Yawkey, Gene may not hit as hard as some other catchers he could name, but for his money there was nothing wrong with his catching. He was one of those steady workmen, who did everything easily and gracefully, with the result that not too much attention was paid him.

Gene played more than Peacock, but still fell short on offense, declining further at bat, hitting just .225 in 1940. After the season, the Sox helped engineered a three-team trade in December that saw Gene go to the Indians. He got into 66 ballgames in 1941 and was kept busy, but by year’s end, though, had pretty much matched his 1940 totals with 17 RBIs but a lower average, just .201. 

He improved his average considerably in 1942, but didn’t get nearly as much work as had been planned due to a a broken leg, suffered in a collision while blocking the plate. It was nearly 10 weeks, though, before he returned.

At the end of the 1943 season, Gene was ordered to report for induction into the United States Army in January 1944. He reported to the Parris Island training center in South Carolina, and by August was the leading hitter on the Parris Island baseball team. During the winter months, PFC Desautels was named basketball coach of the Parris Island Marines team and managed the baseball team for two summers. He was discharged from the Marines in July 1945, and was clearly in the best of shape of his life and was back in the game for the Indians just a week later.

He didn’t play much the rest of the season, getting in just nine at-bats and only one hit. In mid-September, not even waiting until season’s end, the Indians placed him on waivers and he was claimed by the Philadelphia Athletics. The Athletics finished last, 55 games behind the Red Sox and Gene hit .215, in his last season of major-league ball.

He had performed one last service as a major leaguer, though. He was Philadelphia’s player rep to a meeting held in Chicago in July 1946. The players recommended the implementation of a pension plan, a minimum salary, provisions for players to receive a percentage of money during a waiver deal or trade, a provision for spring training per diems payments, and a grievance committee. All in all, it was an early step on the road to collective bargaining between an organized players’ group and owners.

Gene caught for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1947, but could only hit .188 against International League pitching. That was his last year as a player, though he assigned himself 50 times at bat in 16 games while manager of the Class A Williamsport Tigers of the Eastern League. He was appointed Williamsport’s manager in December 1947 and served in the 1948 and 1949 seasons. 

At the end of 1949, Gene took over the Class A Flint, Michigan, Tigers farm club. The area appealed to him and he made Flint his residence for the rest of his life, even though he managed the Flint ballclub for just the 1950 season.

In December, he was named manager of the Double A Little Rock Travelers and worked in Arkansas for the 1951 season, leading the team to its first Southern Association pennant in nine years. He moved on to manage the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association in 1952. He was named to his fifth club in five years, when hired in November, to skipper the Sacramento Solons in the Pacific Coast League for 1953 and 1954.

Gene worked as an athletic consultant, working with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint. The National Amateur Baseball Federation named him as one of its three vice presidents. He hosted an annual tournament in Flint for several years in the late 1950s. 

He also helped do some scouting for the Tigers, running an area tryout camp in 1958 and worked as school counselor at Southwestern High School in Flint, a position he held until retirement. 

Gene Desautels died of a heart attack, while he was shopping at the city market, on November 5, 1994, in Flint at age 87.