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Athletes and Celebrities

Cleveland Indians Ace Cliff Lee: The Southpaw Straphanger

4:00 PM EDT on May 12, 2008


Cliff Lee's $4 million arm hangs from a subway strap.

With a 6-0 won-loss record and a 0.81 earned run average, Cleveland Indians southpaw Cliff Lee is, for the moment, the hottest pitcher in Major League Baseball. His delivery is so smooth, so perfect looking, it's hard not to think Sandy Koufax.

Last Wednesday, Streetsblog tech director Nick Grossman and I journeyed up to the Bronx to watch Lee pick apart the Yankees over-priced line up (yes, I'm an Indians fan), handing Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang his first loss of the season. Unfortunately, I took the D train to get to the stadium. Had I left a couple of hours earlier on the 4 train, I might have been as lucky as baseball blogger Rich Lederer:

We caught the 4 Train from Grand Central to Yankee Stadium. After getting a bite to eat in the food concourse, we hopped onto the subway at about 3:45 pm. Our car was crowded so we found ourselves standing in the middle, holding onto the rails for safety. After we got situated, Joe whispers to me, "I'm 95% certain that's Cliff Lee standing next to you" (notice the arm of my brown jacket in the foreground). I look up and, sure enough, it looks just like the Cleveland lefthander.

In any event, while making eye contact with Lee, I make a pitching motion with my left hand as if I were throwing a breaking ball. He gives me a quizzical look so I mouth "Cliff?" He nods his head. Conscientious that I'm wearing a NY hat for the first time in my life, I point to it and tell him that I'm from Long Beach, California and not really a Yankees fan. Lee smiled and shook his head. I explained that Joe and I were on a father-son baseball trip and had already been to Fenway Park the previous weekend and were going to our first Yankees game that night, and to Shea Stadium on Friday night.

There wasn't a single person other than Joe or me who had any inclination that Cliff Lee was standing on the subway, holding onto the rail tightly with his left arm.

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