This is the third and final post in my series on the yips; the last two weeks have covered Chuck Knoblauch and Rick Ankiel. The yips GOAT, Mackey Sasser, is closing us out today. ESPN has a great 30-for-30 short on Sasser, so watch that if you want more yips content.
Before we answer the question of what happened to Sasser, let's look at his career up until the yips arrived. Sasser was a fifth round draft pick by the Giants in 1984. After bouncing around a few teams, he landed with the Mets in 1988. In 1990, after a couple years of part-time work at catcher, Sasser was given a more prominent role. In 100 games as the primary catcher, he hit .307/.344/.426. It was during that year that Sasser's yips began to emerge.
Sasser's issues throwing the ball back to the pitcher started in San Francisco (a Giants coach threatened to fine him $20 each time he hesitated). However, after a home plate collision on July 8, 1990 left him with a severely sprained ankle and partially torn achilles, Sasser's problem ballooned. At the time, the New York Times reported the injury as "not bad" and Sasser was back behind the plate after just eight days off. At the time of his injury, Sasser was hitting .336, a number that forced Mets manager Bud Harrelson to keep him in the lineup. To compensate for the pain, the injured catcher would flip the ball back to the pitcher from his crouch without standing up.
The media and fans quickly picked up on Sasser's issues. By Spring Training of 1991, writers were digging into Sasser's childhood; his parents divorced when he was 10. Sasser was just as confused as everyone else; "It's a mental block, and I can't say right now that it's gone. Nobody knows where it comes from, nobody knows exactly how to get rid of it." During a May game, Mets pitcher David Cone was "repeatedly driven off the mound to track down Sasser's tosses" (NYT). In the same game, umpire Doug Harvey was "constantly dodging from behind Sasser as he repeatedly stumbled backward." One month later, the issues still hadn't been solved;
Sasser has tried numerous remedies, including consulting a hypnotist and a psychiatrist and practicing throwing a football to the mound to center on a "zone." Players and coaches have offered tips and sympathy, and Sasser has found many suggestions in his mail, such as one from a 10-year-old softball catcher who said: "Just get it and throw it. That's what I do."
Sasser never conquered his yips as a player. After the 1992 season, he was traded out of New York. By 1995, his career was over. Much like Rick Ankiel, though, Mackey Sasser's story has a positive ending. While coaching at a community college after his career ended, he sought the help of doctor David Grand. With Grand's help, Sasser defeated his yips and was able to throw batting practice to his players.
The strange part of Sasser's issues: he threw out 85 of 315 baserunners in his career (27%), a very respectable number.