Philadelphia, unlike waste-removal companies up and down the Eastern seaboard, doesn't get many opportunities to dump on New York.

In the centuries-old battle between the two great misanthropic metropolises of the East, we've typically been the ones who ended up with egg-cream on our faces.

After all, no matter how gussied up the Avenue of the Arts gets, Broad Street is never going to be Broadway. New York has so many feathers in its cap, it resembles a pimp. Philly's feathers? Well, have you seen a Mummers Parade?

It wasn't always that way.

Once, not long after free-agent Ben Franklin abandoned Boston for Philly, we were No. 1. North America's most important city in the 18th and early 19th centuries, we wore our significance modestly, befitting our Quaker roots.

That humility became a hindrance in comparison with New York's unalloyed brashness. While William Penn was making nice and signing treaties with the local Native Americans, New York's founders were taking them to the cleaners, stealing Manhattan island for $24 in beads. Soon they'd turn their eyes on Philadelphia and before we knew it the chop shop to the north had stripped us down like a stolen '08 Camry.

The argument can be made that the Big Apple was pollinated as much by greed and arrogance as by foresight and geographical fortune. I give you J.P. Morgan and Donald Trump.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, liked to lay low. And it cost us.

As New York, like some civic Andy Reid, grew bigger and richer, we eventually got left in its grimy wake. It usurped our Colonial-era glory, not to mention our banks, advertising agencies and publishing industry.

That's why it was so sweet on Tuesday when we stole Cliff Lee out from under the Yankees' stuck-in-the-air noses.

The much-sought-after pitcher rejected a bigger deal from the pinstriped pashas in New York. He decided he wanted to play here. Here. In Philly.

Philly wasn't a bargaining chip. It wasn't a last resort. It wasn't a consolation prize. It was the destination of choice for baseball's highest-profile free agent.

In what was a fitting response for the saliva some Yankees fan purportedly projected toward his wife during the '09 World Series, Lee had spat back at New York.

Perhaps there's a pattern developing here. When we need to thumb our noses at New York, maybe all we need is a lefthanded pitcher.

Thirty years ago, we won another skirmish when one of that breed struck a memorable blow for Philadelphia.

At the Oct. 22, 1980, championship parade for the Phillies, Tug McGraw, his ego bruised when he was traded here by the Mets, held up a Daily News headline that boldly proclaimed "WE WIN!" and delighted a crowd gathered at JFK Stadium.

"All through baseball history," McGraw began, "Philadelphia has had to take a backseat to New York City. Well, New York City can take this world championship and stick it because we're number one!" Philadelphia loved it. It wasn't much, but at least, and at last, we'd fought back.

Lee's signing might not have been as dramatic, but it was just as sweet.

To be honest, it felt so good because we've developed an enormous inferiority complex over the years. Sandwiched by two of the world's most important cities, New York and Washington, we got devoured.

New York had the money and sex appeal. Washington had the power. Philadelphia had cheesesteaks, unruly fans and a lot of "used to be."

It would be nice if the factories and the jobs and the prestige returned here, too. New York has so many banks and ad agencies and publishers. Couldn't it spare a few?

That won't happen, of course. But for some reason it doesn't hurt as much today.

We've got Lee. And thanks to him we've got a little more swagger in our Mummers strut.

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or at ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.