Jim Kern 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for February 5, 2017


Try not to look at this card and NOT smile. The 1979 Topps card of Jim Kern has always been one of my personal favorites.

Before I was doing the Daily Podcast, I posted a blog post comparing the happy cards of Jim Kern and the growling cards of Warren Brusstar.

Kern was always smiling, but never with the giddy abandon of his 1979 Topps card. I think when 7 year old Sully opened the pack of cards and first saw this one, that little boy started laughing.

I still am.

Kern toiled in the minors for 6 seasons before finally making it to the Indians where he made 3 starts in 1974. By 1976, he was a full time reliever and in 1977 made the first of 3 straight trips to the All Star Game.

He piled up saves and innings, throwing 99 1/3 out of the pen for the 1978 Tribe, all the while wearing that awesome “Tomahawk C” cap that is so much cooler than Chief Wahoo.

After 1978, he was packaged with Larvell Blanks in the deal with the Rangers that sent Len Barker and Bobby Bonds to Cleveland. And there in Texas, as this card with him as an Indian was in full circulation, he had his best season.

The pitcher known as The Great Emu gave Texas 143 innings of relief, throwing to a 1.57 ERA. He win 13 and saved 29, striking out 136 while only walking 62. Coupled with newly acquired Sparky Lyle and Dave Rajsich, Kern led a rock solid Rangers bullpen. In early July, the Rangers were in first place by themselves and Kern’s first half, where he won 10, saved 16 and had an ERA of 1.48 played a big part.

The Rangers would fall down the stretch, but it wasn’t Kern’s fault as he continued to be outstanding in the second half. He would win the Rolaids Relief Award for 1979.

His All Star seasons were over after 1979. Injuries and ineffectiveness plagued him after 1979 as he bounced between the Reds, White Sox, Phillies, Brewers and back to the Indians before hanging up his spikes in 1986.

Forever beloved in Texas, he books outdoor adventures in Alaska and other places now. No doubt The Great Emu spends his time in the wilderness and gives it a good old laugh, like he did in his Topps pics.

I hope you have a Jim Kern Day… NOT a Warren Brusstar Day

I never saw Jim Kern pitch.
Not live at least. If I saw him on TV, I have no memory of it.

But yet I remember Jim Kern vividly. I didn’t remember the fact that he was a 3 time All Star and finished 4th in the 1979 AL Cy Young Award balloting.

Nope. I remembered that every year it seemed like he just looked happy on his baseball card.

I mean just look at his 1979 Topps Card.

The guy is loving life!
He’s playing for a 90 loss Indians team going nowhere in a hurry, but he’s laughing away.

He’s an All Star with mess up hair and the bad ass “Tomahawk C” hat and a full set of teeth,

This guy is ready to take the mound and have a great time.

In 1979 he switched teams to Texas and won the Rolaids Relief Award. That would put a smile on anyone’s face.

I distinctly remember being 7 years old and laughing when I saw this card.

Later in Texas he grew some ridiculous facial hair but that obviously didn’t put a damper on his mood.

I have no idea if he was a cool guy or not.

But I remember thinking even as a kid that he looked like he was having fun and savoring being a ball player.

Jim Kern was a state of mind. A way to look at life.

It was about positivity and being happy with where you are.

Now contrast that with Warren Brusstar.

Man this guy always looked mad.

Maybe he was ticked off that his hat didn’t quite cover his curly hair, giving him a “White Oscar Gamble” quality.

Maybe it was playing in the rough Veterans Stadium in some intense playoff caliber actions.

Maybe he was grinding his teeth in pain from all the shoulder injuries he piled up as a sinker ball pitcher

Or perhaps, unlike Kern, Brusstar had a thankless job. He wasn’t a starter and he wasn’t a closer. He piled up neither wins (he got 28 over 9 big league seasons) nor saves (14 total in his career) in an era when those two stats seemed to be the only yard stick people had to measure a pitcher’s value.

Either way, as a kid, I thought he looked really mean.

And he kept looking mean as the years went on.

Being a part of a World Champion and pitching in the 1980 World Series didn’t put a smile on his face..

Even a hair cut and moving to The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field couldn’t cheer him up.

Come on man! You are a big league pitcher with a World Series ring! Cheer up!

So that’s my advice to you my dear readers.
Embrace the Jim Kern within.
Wear that smile. He may not have a won a World Series, but he seemed to have more fun along the way.

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