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Cameras get the dirt on Rogers' hand

Cameras get the dirt on Rogers' hand

DETROIT -- Dirtgate!

The 2006 World Series got smudged by controversy Sunday night. Kenny Rogers' dirty stuff became a little too literal for one inning.

As for what happened beyond, after the Detroit left-hander was detected working with a dirty hand ... well, depends on whose version you want.

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Tony La Russa, the vanquished manager, didn't want to discuss it, lest he come off as a sore loser.

Steve Palermo, an umpire supervisor speaking on behalf of the crew working Game 2 of the World Series, called it a simple incidental matter addressed by Rogers in response to the umpires' request.

As for Rogers himself, he said he didn't even have to be told to go wash up.

"It was a big clump of dirt," Rogers said as the Tigers knotted the Series at a game apiece. "Dirt and resin and all that stuff put together, when it's moist and you're rubbing up the baseball and it stays on your hand.

"And I wiped it off. I didn't know it was there and they told me and I took it off, and it wasn't a big deal."

It most definitely wasn't a helpful deal.

While working with the stain, Rogers issued a walk to Albert Pujols and an infield single to Scott Rolen. After coming clean, he pitched six hitless innings, until Yadier Molina singled to begin the eighth.

Rogers appeared for the second inning without the smear, at the base of his left thumb, that had been so evident on TV zoom shots.

A lot of dialogue had preceded his reappearance -- between home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez and Palermo, between Marquez and Rogers, between La Russa and umpire crew chief Randy Marsh -- triggering suspicions that he had been caught with the proverbial "foreign substance."

And, if so, why would he have been allowed to remain in the game?

Rule 8.02 of the good book (baseball's official rules) forbids the pitcher to "Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game."

"It was just detected that there was a noticeable dirt mark of some sort on his left hand, his pitching hand," Palermo detailed, "and after the first inning ... Marquez ... just asked Kenny to remove that dirt, so there wouldn't be any question as far as any controversy.

"Marquez was talking to Rogers as he came off the field, and Marsh ... was informing Tony at the same time."

According to Palermo, who was sitting in the boxes to the right of the Tigers dugout and was immediately briefed by the involved umpires, Marquez intercepted Rogers as he strode off the mound after the first.

"Kenny," Marquez told the pitcher, "also that dirt thing that you've got on your hand, if you'll do me a favor and just take it off."

After the Tigers grabbed a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs off Jeff Weaver in the bottom of the first, Rogers returned to the mound without the curious smudge.

"Somebody said they thought they saw pine tar," St. Louis second baseman Aaron Miles said. "That's about it. Whether he got rid of it, or he never had it in the first place, we don't know. His stuff was good all game. It's cold out there and slick. Our gloves were slick. Who knows?"


Scoreless innings streaks in a single postseason
IP
Pitcher
Team
Year
27Christy MathewsonNew York (NL)1905
24Lew BurdetteMilwaukee1957
23Jerry ReussLos Angeles1981
23Kenny RogersDetroit2006

While he professed to be oblivious to this developing and enduring side story, Rogers confessed that if he indeed had gotten into the Cardinals' heads .... well, that was a good place to be.

"I didn't think it was an issue," Rogers said. "But if it distracts someone. ... I'd do anything to distract anybody. But I think after the first inning I was fine."

As he had been before the first inning, racking up a streak of 15 scoreless innings this postseason. By the end of his eight-inning kinetic stint Sunday, the 41-year-old left-hander's string of zeros stood at 23.

He was so superior, La Russa was sheepish about having asked that Rogers clean up his act in the first place.

"Tony went out and said a couple of his players said the ball was acting funny," recalled Detroit manager Jim Leyland. "They made Kenny wash his hands, and he washed his hands, and came out the second inning and he was pretty clean the rest of the way."

After the game, La Russa said, "It's not important. I wouldn't discuss that about someone who pitched like that. I wouldn't want to take anything away from anybody."

Rogers' ensuing edge -- he retired 16 of 18 men, around a pair of walks, second through seventh innings -- was so sharp, it was easy to discount any advantage a "dirty ball" could have given him.

"Anytime you can get a better grip on the ball," pointed out Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, "you increase velocity and the spin on the ball. It would have more bite if it's a sinker and better spin on a slider."

Leyland shrugged off Dirtgate as a routine diamond incident, obviously amplified by the World Series stage.

"Tony and I have both been in the game 40-some years," Leyland said, "and from time to time hitters always talk about the ball acting a little funny. But whether you do or don't make a big deal about it is, in most cases, not an issue."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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