Aug 4, 2016

Late Eighties Mets Back Up Catcher: Mackey Sasser (1988-1992)

Mack Daniel Sasser was born August 3, 1962 at Fort Gaines, Georgia. He attended Troy State University & still holds the school record for most at bats by a player making it to the big leagues. Sasser was originally an outfielder, getting drafted in the fifth round of the 1984 draft by the San Francisco Giants.

In 1985 at A ball Fresno he was fourth in the California league in batting (.338) & fourth in RBIs (102). He hit .293 the next year at AA Shreveport & then .318 at AAA Phoenix in 1987.

That year he also made his MLB debut with the Giants (14 games) but was soon traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Don Robinson & cash on July 31st. He finished the season batting .185 playing in just 14 games at then big league level. In the off season he was sent to the New York Mets for prospect Randy Milligan.

In Spring Training 1988, Sasser impressed, & beat out Barry Lyons for the backup catching job, behind Gary Carter. On April 10th he made his Mets debut as a defensive replacement in a 4-3 Mets win at Philadelphia.

On April 19th he got his first Mets hit as a pinch hitter at Shea Stadium. He kept his batting average up to .300 by the end of May & then brought it back to that mark with a strong end of June where he started seeing more action.

On July first he hit a rare triple in the bottom of the 7th inning, against the Houston Astros in the first game of a double header. The hit drove in Daryl Strawberry in what turned out to be the game winning run. On July 22nd he hit a pair of double driving in wo runs in the Mets 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.

From there he slumped to the end of September as his average fell to .245. In the last week of the season he had a resurgence, getting seven hits over three game stretch.

On September 25th, Sasser had a four RBI day in St. Louis while gathering up three hits & a walk in the Mets 9-7 win. He finished the year batting .285 with one HR, ten doubles, a .313 on base % & 17 RBIs in 60 games played. Behind the plate he made six errors (.970 fielding %) & only threw out 22% of base runners attempting to steal.

In 1989 Gary Carter spent more time on the disabled list & Sasser saw action in 62 games behind the plate, (72 games) overall sharing time with Barry Lyons. Defensively, Sasser improved to a .992 fielding % & threw out 29% of runners attempting to steal.

 On May 13th he hit his only HR of the year, it came off Ed Whitson & the San Diego Padres. The two run shot in the home second inning, led the Mets to a 3-2 win. He didn't begin to see much action until June, and quickly got himself over .300. That June he drove in runs in six of seven games in the middle of the month.

Toward the end of July he had a another hot streak where he drove in seven runs with six hits, over a six game stretch keeping his average well above .300. In 182 at bats he batted .291 with one HR, 14 doubles a .316 on base % & 22 RBIs.

By 1990 Gary Carter’s days in New York were over, but Barry Lyons won over the main catcher’s job at first. But Lyons struggled through injuries, and Sasser was hitting better, He won over the position once again. He caught 87 games that season, leading all NL catchers with 14 errors, while posting a .975 fielding %.

Drama: That July he got run over during a home plate in a collision with the Atlanta Braves Jim Presley. After that point, Sasser developed a serious mental problem where he would double pump his arm on his throws back to the pitcher.

Strangely it didn’t seem to affect him throwing out base runners who were attempting to steal. Neither he nor the Mets medical staff could figure out what was going on. So became the legend of in which Mackey Sasser will always be remembered.

At the plate he had his best year batting .307 (second on the team to Dave Magadan) with 6 HRs 14 doubles a .344 on base % & 41 RBIs in 270 at bats. On May 6th he helped the Mets come back from a four run deficit, hitting a three run HR to tie the game against the Houston Astros. They went on to win it on a Kevin McReynolds HR. A few days he doubled driving in two more runs in a 9-4 win over the L.A. Dodgers. A the end of June into July he hit safely in 19 of 22 games topping his average up at .336.

On July 6th he had a four RBI day at Atlanta, capped off with a three run 9th inning HR in the 10-3 Mets win. The following day he came back to drive in three more runs, but it was all the Mets could score in the 4-3 loss.

On July 24th he had a huge day in Philadelphia, hitting two HRs driving in four runs while gathering up three hits in a 7-4 Mets win. On July 29th Sasser hit a grand slam HR off St. Louis's Jose Deleon, helping Doc Gooden to a 6-0 shutout in front of 42,000 at Shea Stadium. Sasser peaked at a .350 batting average before leveling off to .307 in the final months of the season.

By 1991 the double clutch throwing issue was becoming a real problem. At first he tried psychotherapy, & the yoga exercises but neither one worked. Veteran catcher Rick Cerone was brought in to split the catching duties with Sasser. The Mets wanted Sasser's bat in the lineup & even tried putting him in the outfield (21) games, as well as at first base (14 games). In 21 games in the outfield he posted a .967 fielding % & made three assists.

On May 31st he hit a three run HR in St. Louis helping the Mets to a 10-5 win. On July 19th, he had a walk off RBI sac fly against San Francisco’s Dave Righetti giving the Mets a dramatic win over the Giants. Two days later he had a big four hit, five RBI day against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which included a two run HR.

Once again Sasser was hitting, staying over the .300 mark into August. On August 26th Sasser broke a 4-4 tie in Houston, with a tenth inning RBI double leading the Mets to a 6-4 win. In September he drove in eleven runs, for the 5th place Mets, and saw Bud Harrelson get replaced at manager by Mike Cubbage.

Overall in 96 games he batted .272 (fourth best on the club) with 5 HRs & 35 RBIs. By 1992 his average had dropped to .241 and the Todd Hundley era was about to begin behind the plate. Sasser played in 92 games with two HRs 18 RBIs a .248 on base %. He became a free agent and the Mets didn’t peruse him.

He ended up with the Seattle Mariners backing up catcher Dave Valle, batting .218 in 83 games. He played briefly the next two seasons and his career was over by 1995 at age 33. He finished a nine season career batting .267 lifetime with 317 hits 16 HRs 69 doubles 7 triples a .296 on base % & 156 RBIs. Defensively he posted a .987 fielding percentage & threw out 27% of would be base stealers.

Retirement: Sasser became a long time baseball coach at Wallace Community College in Alabama. He was still having problems with the throwing and it was occasionally interfering with him throwing batting practice.

A friend suggested he seek help from a Long Island psychotherapist and in 2007 they appeared to have worked out the issues. A psychological mental block had occurred from the home plate collision in 1990, as well as other situations earlier in his life. Through therapy Sasser believes he is finally cured.

No comments: