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Sports Beat

When she returns from Athens, where she is leading the U.S. softball team in its quest to win its third straight Olympic gold medal, Jennie Finch (page 59) will have little time to relax. She'll marry Diamondbacks righthander Casey Daigle, 23, later this fall. The day after he met her two years ago, Daigle sent Finch, 23, four dozen roses. Then he asked her out. "I said no because that was too creepy," said Finch (below). "But he hung around, and we got together." Daigle proposed to the 23-year-old pitcher on the softball field at the University of Arizona, where she starred before graduating in 2002. "He blindfolded me and took me to the mound and said, 'You have been the queen of the diamond for four years. Now I want you to be the queen of my heart,'" said Finch. The blonde windmiller, who marketing execs think can make over a million dollars in endorsements after the Olympics, said yes. The pitcher perfect couple is planning an Oct. 30 wedding, followed by a honeymoon in Bora Bora.

■The college football season hasn't started yet, but Texas back Cedric Benson (right) has already chalked up an impressive run. On Aug. 10 he witnessed a one-car accident on Interstate 35 near Austin. The Heisman hopeful was the first person to reach the totaled Chrysler Sebring of Angie Samuels, who was uninjured in the wreck. She told Benson that her husband, Jerry, worked at a nearby car dealership, so Benson took off, running a quarter mile to notify him of the accident. "I just did what I was always taught to do," Benson said. "You see someone who needs help, and you help them." Jerry visited Benson at practice last week to thank him, and he and his wife plan to buy Longhorns season tickets.

■Despite rumors to the contrary, David Beckham is deeply into pants. A few months ago he bought (for $1,700) and framed a pair that Johnny Depp wore in Edward Scissorhands. Now English pop star Robbie Williams has revealed that Beckham once phoned him to find out where he purchased his jeans so Beckham could buy a matching pair. In Feel, a new book about Williams that hits stores on Sept. 1, the singer tells of the mutual admiration he and Beckham have for each other. In addition to trousers, they also keep a keen eye on each other's coifs. "I've got people I employ just to hair-watch David Beckham," said Williams.

■Blame it on the elaborate tribute to Eros, the Greek goddess of love, during the Olympics' opening ceremonies: The Australian women's water polo team has assembled a $350 pot, with the money going to the first girl to kiss U.S. tennis star Andy Roddick.... Alex Rodriguez has obviously found his first season with the Yankees to be a moving experience. The well-compensated third baseman and his wife, Cynthia, were recently seen looking at an Upper East Side apartment in a building where the units, which come with herringbone oak flooring and windows imported from England, start at $7.865 million.... It's hard to picture them wearing the relatively staid stylings of Joseph Abboud, but club-hopping Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey and ultracool Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury have signed endorsement deals with the designer. Abboud, attempting an image makeover, is also dressing Andre 3000 of Outkast.... Steven Spielberg has halted work on Vengeance, his film about the hunt for the Palestinian terrorists who killed 11 members of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team in Munich, out of fear that the set in Poland would itself become a terrorist target.


The president of Turkmenistan, a poor desert nation in Central Asia, has ordered that a palace made of ice be built so "our children can learn to ski."


South Carolina football coach, on the one writer who voted the Gamecocks No. 1 in the SEC preseason poll: "He probably voted with a crayon."



PICTURE THIS Great balls of fire! U.S. Forest Service fire engineer Keith Orr made a sizzling save when he booted a soccer ball out of harm's way while fighting a rapidly spreading wildfire near Lake Shasta, Calif., last week that forced 800 people to flee their homes. Orr might have a future in MLS--with the Chicago Fire.