The eccentric, intelligent 6’5″ prankster was nicknamed Emu because he looked and acted like a big bird. Kern and Sparky Lyle, in the Rangers’ bullpen for two seasons, were known as Craziness, Inc. for their antics and off-the-field misadventures. Kern was hit in the mouth with a throw from his catcher while watching a foul ball in Texas in August 1980. He fell backward off the mound, suffering a concussion. The temporary amnesia he reportedly suffered may have been the result of an opportunistic sense of humor.
His overpowering fastball and lunatic reputation made him an intimidating short reliever; he averaged 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, 1976-79, when he won 41 games and saved 75. Though he lost an AL-high 10 in relief for Cleveland in 1977, he turned it around in 1979 with Texas, where he was 13-5 with 29 saves and a 1.57 ERA, earning him Fireman of the Year honors with Mike Marshall. That was his last effective season, as he injured his elbow in 1980. Unhappy in Cincinnati, Kern forced the Reds to trade him in 1982 by regrowing his scraggly beard, breaking the Reds’ unwritten “no facial hair” rule.