Sara McGuire was a big Phillies fan, and Cliff Lee was probably her favorite Phillies player if I had to guess. Monday night’s game in Los Angeles is one I know my grandmother would have fallen asleep too early in the game, but it was one I know she would have enjoyed immensely if she got the chance to watch it.
Lee was given a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning as the four-game series against the Dodgers opened up on the west coast. Carlos Ruiz drove in the two runs for his first RBI of the season with a double down the right field line. Lee shook off some rust in the first inning but quickly got in a groove as he went on to pitch a dominant eight shutout innings. He was in command, he was without fear. He was the master of his domain.
There is something unique about Lee. He runs to and from the mound as the innings change. He does things like catch a pop fly to the mound without a care in his World Series debut against the New York Yankees…
Whatever it is, Lee has a way of being received well by Phillies fans young and old. My grandmother was a shining example of that.
When the Phillies were making their playoff runs my grandmother would call me up the next day to talk about the games. She would not call after every game, but the most important ones. The Phillies made a surprise division run in 2007 and won it all in 2008, but there was something about the 2009 season that really made my grandmother smile. That something was Cliff Lee. Maybe it was the way Lee reminded my grandmother, who attended the 1950 World Series, of pitchers of the past. He works quickly on the mound. He is a no-nonsense type of guy who could fit in during almost any era of the game. Like many, she was disappointed when the Phillies traded Lee away, although she very much enjoyed what she saw of Roy Halladay in 2010.
The day after Halladay pitched his perfect game, my grandmother called me to talk about the game. As that season went on, my grandmother began to get sick and her energy was really starting to drain. She spent time in a hospital later in the year but stayed as up to date on the Phillies as she could.
On December 15, 2010 the Phillies signed Lee as a free agent, bringing him back to Philadelphia to be a part of a pitching rotation with great expectations. My grandmother was in the hospital at the time, while I was in Dallas for a business trip. I called her in the hospital the next day, after I got home from my trip. I knew she would not stay on the phone for long, because at this point it really was exhausting for her with the medication and treatment. It was difficult to breathe at times, so phone calls had to be brief. All I wanted to do was share my excitement about Lee’s return to Philadelphia with what I believed to be his number one fan. Though she was battling, she knew about Lee’s return and her smile about it managed to get through the pain, discomfort and the telephone line.
My grandmother never did get to see Lee pitch another game for the Phillies. She passed away two weeks later on Christmas Eve. Although I am not a religious person, whenever Lee pitches I do like to feel as though she is watching somewhere, because I know she would not miss a Cliff Lee start for anything. If it is possible, I try to watch every game Lee starts in her memory.
On Monday night, I am sure my grandmother was watching and enjoying every pitch.