ST. LOUIS -- Every hot dog has his day, but nobody here thought Jeffrey Leonard really deserved four of them. So, this evening the bleachers in Busch Stadium were ready for the San Francisco left fielder who claims he loves to be booed and thinks he plays better when he taunts and is taunted.

Every time No. 00 ran to his spot, a sea of signs rose to meet the four-homer star of these National League playoffs. For instance:

00-Nerd. Why Do You Wear Your IQ?

Jeffrey (Make 'Em Wait) Leonard: The S.F. Chump.

Who needs a Hac Man; We've got a Jack, Man.

Scumm Babies, bah hummbug.

Go home, surf scumm.

Ozzie Smith: Hall of Fame. Jeffrey Leonard: Hall of Shame.

Other signs were removed by the police. "Censorship," went the yells.

Once the signs came down, the voices came up. "Jefff-reeey," they wailed, sarcastically as he struck out on four pitches in the first inning. "Jefff-reeey," they bellowed, tens of thousands strong and even louder when he went down flailing at another low-away change-up from John Tudor in the third.

This was especially ripe since Tudor has said he "does not like Jeffrey Leonard" and doesn't think he's more than a run-of-the-mill player. Not a special one like, say, a Tudor.

At first, Leonard looked into the crowd, encouraging the attention, as he had in Games 1 and 2 when he hit monstrous home runs over the 414-foot sign in Busch's center field. But, after those strikeouts, his head went down. "Pull your hat down even lower," bellowed Bill Price, a fan in red. "Even your mother couldn't love that face."

By the end of this 1-0 St. Louis victory, the game had been stopped three times for rubbish thrown near Leonard, and once so police could eject a fan who almost doused Leonard with beer. The city of St. Louis vs. The Hac Man had become the subplot of the whole night.

"They had great signs, great lines. They had a great time. I didn't mind the hot dogs, money, paper and beer they threw at me. If I'd picked up all the money, I could have paid my clubhouse dues for the year," said Leonard, who picked up one quarter and tossed it, "you know, like George Raveling."

Well, maybe George Raft.

However, Leonard did not like the cowbell. "No, I didn't like the cowbell," he said. "That's metal. It came too close . . . about five yards."

Even the Cardinals didn't like the cowbell. "I hate to see 'em throw things at him," said Tudor. "He's a jerk, but that's not Cardinal baseball."

If any player has symbolized the audacity of the Giants in this series, it has been Leonard who, in 11 seasons with three teams, has never lived up to his potential. After roaring through the minors, hitting .365 in AAA, he hit .290 in Houston in his first full season. Then, for a decade, nothing much. Once, he hit .300. Twice, he had 21 homers. But mostly he was a marginal player who promised, or perhaps boasted, more than he delivered. An even 100 homers in 11 seasons isn't greatness. Even this season, down the stretch, Leonard went 40 games without a homer.

However, when Leonard gets hot (as in angry), he can carry a team for a week. When Manager Roger Craig benched him for Game 1, that lit the fuse. When a left-hander subbed for injured Danny Cox, Leonard got to start -- four homers, seven hits and 10 times on base in four games.

Just when the Giants, who lost 100 games two years ago and haven't been to the World Series in 25 years, needed bravado, they accidentally turned to Leonard, who wants desperately to be a leader any way he knows how, rough-hewn though his style might be. So, one flap down, strutting around the bases in a ludicrous parody of a home run trot, Leonard became the Giants' instant symbol. "Somebody's gonna pay," he said, after being hit with a pitch. And, the next day, a friendly gale carried his can of corn over a short fence and dern if he hadn't won another game.

It's been the Giants' mixed blessing to be identified with Leonard more in this postseason than they ever were in regular season life. Six Giants homered and drove in runs with more frequency than Leonard. In the dugout, he's part inspiration, part embarrassment. Almost by default, the Giants have picked up his tone -- belligerence.

When a bully's bluff gets called, it can be doubly deflating. That's why this game was so important to the Giants. Even Craig, that quiet, gentle country horseman, has taken a swaggering tack. Asked for two days who his Game 7 starter would be, he has said, "We're only going to play six games." Was that a smart way to talk about Tudor, a fellow who'd won 43 of his last 53?

On this cool night, a chill ran along the competitive spine. Things were going subtly wrong for the Giants. A close call at second. A vital close call at third. A fly ball missed in the lights. A terrible throw to the plate.

Leonard silenced the crowd with a hard leadoff single in the sixth. "I missed a home run by this much," he said, indictating a quarter-inch. Then he did a strange, yet perhaps indicative thing. On a chop to second, he had a chance to take out Smith with a tough slide. Instead, he deliberately did a popup slide, stopping shy of Smith. Was Leonard trying to be nice? Appease the crowd? Erase his nasty national reputation? If so, it was an odd time for image polishing. Before this game, Leonard was asked if, maybe, the Twins were in the Series because they were hungrier than the Tigers.

"We haven't eaten yet," he said.

It's fairly difficult for one man to take on 55,331. Craig even admitted that he was close to pulling his whole team off the field after the beer throwing incident. "I don't think {Leonard} 'loves' it at all. That's bullfeathers," said Herzog.

In the first five games of this playoff, the Giants have been a 90-win team with a 110-win attitude. It's helped. But such cockiness can backfire. The Cardinals and their fans had no focus for their frustration last week, no real target. This evening, they did. Wednesday, they will. "It will be worse," said Leonard.

The Giants are not only in hostile territory but, in a subtle way, the man who helped them so much last time they were here might now be a kind of albatross.

"I'll be ready tommorrow," said Leonard.

But will the other 23 Giants?