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.
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