Cliff Lee put together a legendary performance in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series. He became the first pitcher to strike out 10, walk none and allow no earned runs through nine innings in a postseason game. Since Lee’s Game 1 start in 2009, only two pitchers (Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner) have thrown a nine-inning complete game in the World Series.
The most incredible part of Lee’s performance is that he was close to not arriving on time for the game. It’s not uncommon for a starting pitcher to arrive a bit late on their start days, but Lee could’ve missed the 8:01 p.m ET start time if it wasn’t for his prior knowledge of the New York City subway system.
According to the New York Daily News, Lee was in a taxi at around 5:45 p.m. when the driver alerted him that his ETA is approximately two hours. Since Lee frequently used the NYC subway during his time with Cleveland, he told his driver to find the nearest subway station. Both his agent Derek Braunecker and Phillies director of team travel and clubhouse services Frank Coppenbarger urged Lee to get a police officer to escort him to the ballpark, but he couldn’t find one nearby.
Lee apparently left the cab on W. 119th St. in Manhattan, according to Fox Sports. He followed a large crowd of Yankees fans and transferred to the B train to get to the stadium.
He did all that without being recognized by a single fan, according to Lee.
The only problem was that Lee was unfamiliar with the layout of the new Yankee Stadium, which had opened for the first time earlier that year. Lee pitched there during the stadium’s inaugural series in April, but he needed help finding the visiting players entrance.
According to Jim Salisbury, Coppenbarger told Lee to wait by the McDonald’s nearby to have somebody pick him up. He made it to the stadium with plenty of time to spare.
Lee, a native of Arkansas, doesn’t mind taking the train once in a while. He was once spotted on a crowded 4 train prior to a game against the Yankees in 2008. His wife Kristen praised SEPTA’s convenience after Lee signed a five-year, $120 million contract to return to the Phillies in 2010. She loved the fact that Citizens Bank Park was just a 10-minute train ride from Center City.
At one point that night, Lee did panic. No, it wasn’t during the third inning when Derek Jeter doubled with two outs. It definitely wasn’t in the sixth when Johnny Damon hit a popup to the mound. The cab driver who told him it would take two hours to get to the stadium did scare Lee just a bit, but not nearly enough to stop him from delivering one of the best starting pitching performances in World Series history.
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