Cliff Lee Returns to the Phillies. A Love Story.

One day, a man named Cliff Lee came to the Philadelphia Phillies. And he was loved.

Photo: USA Today

He had an amazing season for the Phillies in 2009, and was the reason that the team had two wins against the evil Yankee empire in the World Series that year. And he also did these bad ass moves, which proved he was a stud and had Philly attitude down to the core. The Phillies lost the 2009 World Series, but all loved Cliff Lee for helping the team make a respectable showing in it.

And then, heart break. In December, just when fans had finally come to terms with the loss and the end of the baseball season, a knife was driven through the heart of Phillies fans everywhere. Cliff Lee went from wearing this uniform:

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to this one

Seemingly out of nowhere, Cliff Lee was traded to the Seattle Mariners. And Muse's heart broke. It broke further when the Phillies gave Roy Halladay, the ace acquired in the two-part trade, Lee's former number as Phillie: 34.

I love you, Roy, but please give Cliff his number back.

Cold blooded. No time to let wounds heal. Halladay won Phillies fans over, but we all still wondered: What if Cliff Lee was still in this rotation?

Then , in the midst of the season, there was talk of yet another trade for Mr. Lee. Phillies? Please?  After being a Mariner for only a matter of months, Cliff Lee then had to change to yet another uniform--this time to that of the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers had an historic season after the Lee acquisition and went to the post season. Lee helped the franchise win a pennant for the first time in the history of the franchise. Phillies fans looked on, and hoped he did well.We still loved our Cliff Lee.

Then the season ended. As Lee was now a free agent, which is the supposed reason that the Phillies originally unloaded him, it seemed all but certain that Lee would sign to put on this uniform.

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Rumors abounded. Would he really go to the Yankees? Even after Yanks fans spit on Mrs. Lee?

Photo. The lucky Kristen Lee. Not lucky that Yankees fans spit on her, but lucky to be married to Cliff Lee.

Would he go to the Red Sox? After the Werth trade, even the Nationals seemed to be in the mix. Then, out of nowhere, there was talk of a "mystery team." The Twitter world was aflutter--was it the Phillies? Were they going to try to bring Lee back? I couldn't stand the taunting of my heartstrings. The Phillies couldn't get Lee. He would become a Yankee, which would mean the end of our love. Because no love can endure a Yankees uniform.

But somehow, as I and many others in the Philadelphia area slumbered, it happened. The Phillies made a deal, and Lee accepted. It was shorter than those offered by the Yankees and the Rangers (a reported $120 million for 5 years), but Lee has never hidden his love of Philadelphia, the Phillies, or Philadelphia fans. So he made that--cough cough--sacrifice.

On this day that Cliff Lee returned to we Phillies fans, there was an extra bounce in our step. And extra smile on our faces. Because it was Merry Cliffmas.

That's right, Christmas came 11 days early. Then euphoria set in. On so many levels. The wondrousness that will be the Phillies pitching rotation for 2011 and years to come. The fact that a Chrismukkah miracle had been achieved. The realization that sometimes, yes, Philadelphia sports can break your heart, but they can make up for it in big, big ways.

My most immediate concern is to know what number Lee will be given upon his return. I have a matter of a certain shirt to settle.

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I never stopped wearing my "Lee 34" Phillies shirt. I will continue to do so. But is it now a collector's item? I suppose you can't ask Halladay to give his number back to Cliff...but I'd like to know where I stand with my shirt.

He's been on a detour as of late, but I would like to say this to Cliff Lee: Welcome home.You have been missed. You left money on the table to come back to us, the fans of Philadelphia won't let you down.

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