March 15, 1949 |
|September 6, 1974, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 30, 1986, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Earned run average||3.32|
|Career highlights and awards|
James Lester Kern (born March 15, 1949 in Gladwin, Michigan) is a retired Major League Baseball pitcher. A three time American League All-Star (1977–1979), Kern went 13-5 with a 1.57 ERA and 29 saves out of the Texas Rangers' bullpen in 1979 to finish fourth in American League Cy Young Award balloting.
In 1967, Kern signed with the Cleveland Indians out of Midland High School in Midland, Michigan at eighteen years old. He went 4-7 with a 4.93 earned run average for the Gulf Coast League and Rock Hill Indians in 1968, then missed the 1969 season serving in the United States Marine Corps. He had an even 47-47 record over six seasons as a starting pitcher in the Indians' farm system when he received a September call-up in 1974. In his major league debut, he pitched a complete game in which he held the Baltimore Orioles to just one run. The Indians were, however, held scoreless by Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar.
Kern went 0-6 despite a modest 1.82 ERA as a reliever in 1975 before he was moved into the starting rotation. He was 1-2 with a 4.79 ERA as a starter when the Indians traded Gaylord Perry to the Texas Rangers for Jim Bibby, Rick Waits, Jackie Brown and $100,000 on June 13. In order to make room on the major league roster for the two additional pitchers acquired, Kern was optioned to the triple A Oklahoma City 89ers.
He returned to the Indians in 1976 as a full-time reliever, making just two spot starts, and was 10-7 with a 2.37 ERA and fifteen saves. Early in the 1977 season, the Indians traded closer Dave LaRoche to the California Angels, opening the door for Kern to inherit the job. He was 2-3 with seven saves and a 2.84 ERA in his new job at the All-Star break to be named to his first All-Star squad. He pitched a perfect inning, striking out two. For the season, he finished fourth in the American League with eighteen saves, one ahead of LaRoche.
Kern was dominant from the moment he arrived in Texas. He was 10-2 with a 1.48 ERA and sixteen saves at the 1979 All-Star break to earn his third consecutive selection to the AL squad. With the American League leading 6-5, Kern gave up an eighth inning home run to the New York Mets' Lee Mazzilli, allowing the National League to tie the score. Mazzilli returned to the plate an inning later with the bases loaded and two outs. AL manager Bob Lemon pulled Kern in favor of New York Yankees ace Ron Guidry. Guidry walked Mazzilli, allowing the winning run to score, and giving Kern the loss.
Despite his short-comings in the All-Star game, Kern remained hot in the second half, going 3-3 with a 1.72 ERA and thirteen saves. His 29 saves for the season were second only to the Minnesota Twins' Mike Marshall. He was selected The Sporting News and Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, as well as being named the right-handed pitcher on The Sporting News AL All-Star Team that season.
Kern pitched 143 innings over 71 games in 1979, both career highs. The heavy workload effected Kern as he struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness in 1980. Back-to-back poor performances against the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles saw his ERA reach 5.25 at the start of May. With his record sitting at 2-7 with a 4.56 ERA and just two saves, Kern made his first start in four years on June 5 against the Kansas City Royals. He was tagged for five earned runs, and was unable to get out of the fifth inning. A poor performance in his next appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers saw his ERA reach a season high 6.19.
Injuries limited Kern to just seven innings pitched in the first half of the strike shortened 1981 season. However, he returned strong in the second half, going 1-2 with a 2.74 ERA and five saves in seventeen appearances. At the 1981 Winter meetings, he was traded to the New York Mets for Dan Boitano and Doug Flynn, however, before he could make an appearance with his new club, he was packaged with Greg Harris and Alex Treviño, and sent to the Cincinnati Reds for slugger George Foster.
Kern pitched respectably in Cincinnati, going 3-5 with a 2.84 ERA and two saves, however, he was unhappy with the Reds' rule against facial hair, and asked to be traded. The Reds accommodated Kern's wish, and sent him to the Chicago White Sox for two minor leaguers. After finishing out the 1982 season in Chicago, Kern made just one appearance in the second game of the 1983 season before he was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Kern accused the White Sox of using him improperly, and causing him to tear two tendons.
Decimated by injuries to their pitching staff, the Philadelphia Phillies signed Kern in June 1984. Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates in extra innings, Kern gave up seven runs (six earned) in just one inning of work to take the loss in his first appearance with his new team. He was released on July 27 to make room on the roster for Tug McGraw, who was returning from a shoulder injury. He signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers shortly afterwards. He was called up that September, and appeared in six games without giving up a run.
He also appeared in five games with the Brewers early in the 1985 season. He pitched three hitless innings in his first game of the season, but pitched poorly afterwards and was released on June 17 with a 6.55 ERA. The highlight of his 1985 season was when he pulled off an unassisted double play against the Seattle Mariners on May 6. He became the first pitcher to pull off this feat since Jim Umbarger in 1975.
Kern returned to the Cleveland Indians as a non-roster invitee to Spring training in February 1986. On May 12, Kern suffered one of the worst outings of his career against the Texas Rangers. In a little over an inning pitched, Kern gave up eight runs (seven earned) to see his ERA balloon from 3.46 to 7.53. On his way off the field, frustrated Indians fans began throwing garbage on the field, hitting Kern with a bottle. After a poor performance against the Brewers on May 30, Kern sat unused in the Indians bullpen until his release on June 17.
An outdoor enthusiast his entire life, in 1987, Kern started the "Emu Outfitting Company" (after his major league nickname, the "Amazing" Emu) in Arlington, Texas, an outdoor adventure company that booked and operated hunting, fishing and photographic trips in North and South America. In 2007, he worked as on-site general manager of the Rainbow Bay Resort near Anchorage, Alaska.
Kern also did color commentary for college and Major League Baseball games for Fox Sports, Home Sports Entertainment and Prime Sports. In 1994, he created and hosted Nolan Ryan's First Spring Turkey Hunt for Fox Sports.
In 2006, Kern was named as one of the greatest Texas Rangers pitchers of all time.
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- Herschel Nissenson (July 26, 1980). "Rangers' Kern Finds 1979 Form to Beat Chisox". Waycross Journal-Herald.
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- "Waived Kern Blasts Chisox for Treatment". Warsaw, Indiana Times-Union. March 2, 1984.
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- "Milwaukee Brewers 11, Cleveland Indians 7". Baseball-Reference.com. May 30, 1986.
- "Indians Sweep A's". Bryan Times. June 12, 1986.
- "Jim Kern "Emu"". JimKernPhotography.com.
- Benjamin Pomerance (March 9, 2011). "Where Are They Now? Jim Kern". BaseballSavvy.com.
- "Speaker: Jim Kern "Captain Peacock"" (PDF). Dallas Woods & Water Club Newsletter. May 2012.
- Adam J. Morris (January 9, 2006). "#50 The Greatest Rangers of All Time: Jim Kern". Lone Star Ball.