By snubbing the New York Yankees and re-signing here, the 32-year-old lefthander could trigger a mini-stimulus for the local economy.
"We're talking about the most coveted free agent out there this offseason," said Wayne McDonnell, a sports-business professor at New York University.
Phillies tickets were among the hottest sellers yesterday at StubHub.com, alongside the New York Knicks and the BCS National Championship game.
"That really speaks volumes as to how excited fans are in Philadelphia to have Cliff Lee back," said StubHub spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer. "Fans have been fired up all day."
Meanwhile, the Phillies reportedly sold more than 20,000 tickets yesterday to fans ready to see Lee back in red pinstripes.
Majestic Athletic, which manufactures the official Major League Baseball jerseys, was awaiting confirmation yesterday that Lee would keep his No. 33 jersey number that he wore with the Texas Rangers, as MLB.com reported. (Lee wore No. 34 for the Phillies in 2009, but Roy Halladay wears it now.)
The new Lee jerseys should be available to purchase within a week to three weeks, according to a Majestic representative.
Modell's and other outlets will likely have Lee T-shirts sooner. When Halladay signed with the Phillies, the shirts arrived there within 48 hours, Morgan said. The jerseys took about a week.
"We should have an answer within the next day on when stuff will start to show up," Morgan said.
Fans who can't wait that long were buying the unofficial Lee-themed shirts that were popping up on the Internet yesterday. The "R2C2" shirt - a "Star Wars"-themed reference to the insane pitching lineup of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels - was available long before sunrise at Zoo With Roy, the kooky Phillies blog.
Kristen Kepics, science administrator at the Academy of Natural Sciences, immediately grabbed an "R2C2" shirt for her boyfriend. And one for herself, of course.
"I didn't hear the news until I woke up [yesterday] morning," said Kepics, 27, of Brookhaven. "I overheard [WMMR radio hosts] Preston and Steve mention the news while I was getting ready this morning . . . and I thought it was a joke until they talked to [Comcast SportsNet's] Michael Barkann. I nearly cried!"
McDonnell expected a huge demand for Cliff Lee apparel and memorabilia.
"He's going to be there a while," McDonnell said. "We're no longer dealing with the vagabond spirit. His legacy is going to be tied with the Phillies going forward. From a merchandise standpoint, everybody is going to want to scoop up those jerseys. The Phillies are now the epicenter of baseball."