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Original Issue

Sports Beat

How about that! Former Arizona Wildcats softball pitcher Jennie
Finch is following the path of broadcasting great Mel Allen. This
Week in Baseball, which the folksy Allen hosted from 1977 until
shortly before his death in '96, has hired Finch, 22, to do a
weekly segment called "Pitch, Hit & Run with Jennie Finch."
She'll discuss fundamentals and strategies with a lucky major
leaguer. A two-time NCAA player of the year, Finch has received
as much acclaim for her curves--she was chosen as the Hottest
Female Athlete over Anna Kournikova in an poll--as for
her curveball. She's due to graduate from Arizona this month with
a communications degree but has no broadcast experience. Finch
says she has already heard grumblings from people who think she's
nothing more than a pretty face. "I think I have the talent," she
says, "and I'm out to prove them wrong."

Pass the relish, Mr. President. Last week tennis stars Andre
Agassi, Todd Martin and Jan-Michael Gambill were among the ATP
players who visited former president George H. Bush in Houston.
Along with his wife, Barbara, Bush gave the players--who were in
town for the U.S. Men's Clay Championships--a tour of his home,
screened Bush family videos in the library and had hamburgers and
hot dogs served up on plastic plates adorned with the
presidential seal. Bush has impressive tennis lineage: His
great-uncle, Joseph Wear, won a bronze medal in doubles at the
1904 Olympics and was the U.S. Davis Cup captain in '28 and '35.
Wear, in fact, gave the future president his first lessons at the
request of Bush's mother, Dorothy, who once finished second in
the U.S. junior nationals. "I was lucky enough to be a ball boy
[at the Davis Cup]," said the former president. "I thought I had
died and gone to heaven, and that really sparked my lifelong love
for the sport."

Former Growing Pains papa Alan Thicke is Canadian, which means
he's a hockey player, which is what led to him catching a puck in
the face during a recreational game at a Burbank, Calif., rink
last week. The puck knocked out five teeth, and Thicke needed 30
stitches. His hair was O.K., though, and he received a get-well
call from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "He told me,
'Congratulations for taking one for the team,'" Thicke says. "I
was touched." ... 128-year-old Churchill Downs is about to get a
thoroughly modern face-lift. Not long after Saturday's Kentucky
Derby, the creaking venue will undergo a $121 million makeover to
add, among other amenities, 23 luxury suites, a food court, new
bathrooms, lounges and 13 elevators. It's expected to take until
May 2005, and fans are already calling next year's Run for the
Roses the "Demolition Derby." ... Eat my shorts, David Beckham.
The Manchester United star may have a hit movie named after him
(Bend It Like Beckham), but plans to feature him in an episode of
The Simpsons have been dropped. "We thought about Becks," said
executive producer Al Jean, "but [in the U.S.] he's not really
famous enough." ... Charles Barkley's loose lips may cost him
some cash. If the Kings and the Sixers make the Finals, Barkley
has pledged $50,000 each to charities chosen by TNT colleagues
Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith.... Allen Iverson may be Reebok's
most famous endorser, but Jay-Z moves product. His signature shoe
sold out in less than a day--about 10,000 went at $95 a
pop--making it the fastest-selling shoe in Reebok history.


COLOR PHOTO: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP (WRESTLERS) PICTURE THIS The new convertible sob. Japanese tradition says the loudest and most tearful babies grow up to be strong and healthy, so at last week's Baby-Cry Sumo contest in Tokyo a couple of wrestlers did their best to gently wring in the new tears. Seventy babies under 12 months old had a bawl in the annual event.



ESPN has developed an American Idol-style reality show that will
chronicle the search for a SportsCenter anchor.

Mets rookie third baseman, expressing disappointment upon being
given a day off after starting the first 21 games: "I was hoping
for the Ripken thing."