ST. LOUIS (AP) – Kenny Rogers trotted up the steps of the dugout and was barely noticed by the fans a couple of hours before Game 3 of the World Series on Tuesday night.

That changed when the Detroit Tigers pitcher went down the third-base line.

Justin Poplowski, a 24-year-old fan from St. Louis, shouted to Rogers and asked for his autograph.

Rogers obliged and the red-clad faithful let him have it as he signed a baseball.

“Put some pine tar on it!”

“Scuff it up Kenny!”

Rogers retorted with a jab of his own.

“Hey, whatever works,” he said, smiling. “You should check your bats – maybe there are holes in them!”

Rogers then began his pregame routine of long tossing with Game 4 pitcher Jeremy Bonderman in left field. Along the third-base line, an officer from the St. Louis County police leaned against the wall to keep the peace if necessary.

It wasn’t.

After the initial batch of hecklers had their say, it was rather quiet.

The story swirling around Rogers, who had a mysterious, brownish smudge on his pitching hand Sunday night in Game 2, does not seem to be going away any time soon.

Prompted by St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, the umpires asked Rogers to clean off his left hand before the second inning. He wound up pitching eight shutout innings in a 3-1 victory that evened the World Series at one game each.

Rogers insisted mud, resin, spit and dirt was what everyone saw at the base of his left thumb.

La Russa isn’t buying it.

“I don’t believe it was dirt,” La Russa said Monday. “Didn’t look like dirt.”

Apparently, the Cardinals believe Rogers was scuffing balls, too.

“It was so blatant,” St. Louis hitting coach Hal McRae said in a story USA TODAY published Tuesday. “What was so strange about it was how obvious it was, in the World Series. It’s a shame a guy would cheat in a World Series game. It hurts the integrity of the game.

“He wasn’t just cheating by using pine tar; he was scuffing balls, too. We collected about five or six balls that are scuffed. He had to be using his fingernails or something.”

LaRussa was asked directly about the report before Game 3.

“My conversation on that is going to be zero,” he said. “I think it’s Game 3 and we’ve all got work to do, so I’m not involved with it anymore, and I don’t want our club to be.”

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda recalled a similar situation involving one of his pitchers that was handled differently by the opposing manager during the 1988 playoffs against the New York Mets.

“Somebody called (Mets manager) Davey Johnson and he had the umpire check Jay Howell’s glove,” Lasorda recalled after leaving the St. Louis clubhouse before Game 3. “They found pine tar in it, threw him out of the game and suspended him.

“What Tony did is not something I can comment on. But if it was me, I would’ve called it to the umpire’s attention right away.”

Some fans in St. Louis were still focused on the flap.

Marty Prather was standing at the gates 3 hours before the game with a stack of white signs with red lettering. Most supported the Cardinals, and some razzed Rogers.

“Employees Must Wash Their Hands Before Leaving the Dugout,” one read.

KTRS, the Cardinals’ flagship radio station, was having fun with the story, too, giving out 4,000 1-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer.

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