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The Beat

After winning the softball gold medal in Greece, pitcher Jennie Finch had little time to prepare for her nuptials to Diamondbacks minor league righty Casey Daigle. They had planned on a fall wedding, but since they were pressed for time they decided to push the date back to next January. She managed a dress rehearsal, though, modeling a gown for the cover of December's Modern Bride and becoming the first athlete to grace the 55-year-old magazine's cover. Finch says she wants to have the ring bearer, her nephew, and the flower girl, Daigle's niece, wear baseball jerseys. But Finch, 24, balks at the idea of having a little hurler of her own in the near future. "He gives me that all the time: 'Are you ready to be a mom yet?'" said Finch. "Oh my gosh, no. A girl on the team just had a baby--it can be done. But there's no way I'm retiring. When I'm 75 I'll still be going."

■Little E is not so little anymore, and he's hoping people will start taking him more seriously. "With turning 30, I look forward to garnering more respect," said Dale Earnhardt Jr. "I would really like the day to come to when I can walk into the NASCAR hauler [where the officials work] and say something or ask them to consider something and it truly gets considered." One thing he didn't have to consider was whether he would have a bash in honor of hitting 30 on Oct. 10--that was a no-brainer. Planned by his sister, the South Beach party last week included boxer Arturo Gatti and rapper Ludacris.

■Two former top-ranked tennis players are no longer No. 1 in each other's hearts. On her website last week, Kim Clijsters, 21, told the world that her relationship with Lleyton Hewitt,23, was over and "as a consequence, the announced wedding has been canceled as well." The two met at the 2000 Australian Open when Clijsters's sister asked her to get Hewitt's autograph for her. Despite Clijsters's site's saying that the decision was "in mutual consent," Hewitt told friends he was "completely floored" by the news that the relationship was over.... When you're looking to break a curse, where else to turn but to a witch? After dispatching the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, Red Sox players Kevin Millar, Mark Bellhorn and Johnny Damon took the stage at the Lucky Strike Lanes across from Fenway Park to join Godsmack for a rendition of their hit I Stand Alone. "It was unbelievable," said Sully, the band's lead singer and a devout Wiccan.... Charmed star Alyssa Milano has changed partners--from Florida righty Carl Pavano to Oakland lefty Barry Zito--but can she get her new beau to change parties? After they both attended a Rock the Vote party in L.A. last week, Milano, 31, put together a binder of John Kerry material for Zito, 26, a conservative Republican.... Dissatisfied with HBO's marketing of the Oct. 2 fight between Felix Trinidad and Ricardo Mayorga, promoter Don King says he's going to start his own boxing channel that will feature live fights and tapes of historic bouts. "This isn't a dream," said King. "It's going to happen. I'm not going to be an indentured servant anymore."


Chinese track star Liu Xiang, who won the gold medal in the 110meter hurdles in Athens, has signed a deal to endorse cigarettes.

They Said It


"North Carolina State forward, after North Carolina's Rashad McCants likened playing for the Tar Heels to being in prison: "If that's the way you look at it, I would hate to see what their shower scene is there."




Tell a Blue Angel to drop in on you when he's in the neighborhood, and he'll take you literally. In a move straight out of Top Gun, a pilot in the 58-year-old Naval formation flying team paid a colleague a visit in his F/A-18 Hornet on Sunday. The Angels were taking part in the final day of the N'Awlins Air Show at the Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base in Bell Chasse, La.