The Beat

July 24, 2005

Basketball phenom O.J. Mayo got a taste of the big time at the Reebok ABCD Camp last week in Teaneck, N.J., where he hung out with Jay-Z, who gave Mayo a pair of specially made sneakers from his S. Carter line. The sophomore at North College Hill High in Cincinnati, who listens to Jay-Z's The Blueprint album before games, chatted with the rapper about his retirement and told him he wouldn't mind someday playing for the team Jay-Z has a stake in, the Nets. "[He] knows his basketball," says Mayo.

■ Former Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum finished 189th in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas last week, and former NFL star Shannon Sharpe and golfer Rocco Mediate each played in the no-limit Texas hold 'em main event. But Anna Benson (above), the wife of Mets pitcher Kris Benson, made the biggest celebrity splash. The former stripper--and Howard Stern favorite--was hit with a 10-minute penalty for using the f word during competition. (She had to pay the antes and blinds but could not play any hands for those 10 minutes.) She then asked the dealer to clarify what was acceptable language by quizzing him on a lengthy list of expletives. "This is Las Vegas," said Benson, who was eliminated on Day 3. "There are no morals here."

■ Sammi Kane Kraft began throwing heat long before she played Amanda Whurlitzer in the Bad News Bears remake. Kraft, who started playing baseball at age three and who claims her fastball has been clocked at 75 mph, recently got to show off her arm in a big league venue. She and three other Bears actors took the field during costar Billy Bob Thornton's at bats in the Celebrity Softball Game at Comerica Park on July 10. After the game the 13-year-old from Los Angeles was introduced to her idol, Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch. "She told me to keep doing what I do," says Kraft. "Then I asked her how fast she pitches, and she said, '60 miles an hour.' I told her how fast I can pitch, and she just stared at me. I probably should have told her I meant baseball, not softball--but I kind of wanted to brag."

■ A Speedo is a good gag gift, but the Auburn men's swimming team wasn't playing around when they presented one of the itsy-bitsy swimsuits to President George W. Bush at a White House reception for 15 NCAA championship teams last week. "We think of it as normal, everyday attire," says Auburn captain B.J. Jones, "so we didn't register the comedy until he said, 'I won't be wearing this--in public, that is.'" Bush got a surfboard (which he dubbed "Surfboard One") from the Pepperdine men's volleyball team and a personalized helmet from the Johns Hopkins lacrosse squad.... One of Mike Tyson's old digs--a 22-room mansion on 65 acres in Southington, Ohio--was on eBay last week, with an opening bid of $3.5 million. Tyson sold it in 1999, but the estate, which still has his name on the front gate, bears many of Iron Mike's touches. "Zebra-striped bedding with mink lining, a hot tub built for 80," says Michele Monea, whose father owns the place. "If you imagined a house that Mike Tyson would live in, this is exactly what it would look like."



A Pennsylvania T-ball coach allegedly paid one of his players $25 to bean an autistic teammate to keep him out of a game.

They Said It Stanton Barrett

NASCAR Busch Series driver, on this Saturday's race--the ITT Industries, Systems Division and Goulds Pumps Salute to the Troops 250 Presented by Dodge: "This might be the only race in the series where it takes longer to say the race name than it does to run the whole 250 miles."

COLOR PHOTODENISE TRUSCELLO/WIREIMAGE.COM (BENSON) COLOR PHOTOFRED VUICH (PICTURE THIS)  PICTURE THIS These guys aside, few golf fans were able to mask their emotions when Jack Nicklaus said goodbye at the British Open (page 42). Nicklaus missed the cut, but his face was still seen on Sunday, when three of his admirers paraded around the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, sporting replicas of Jack's favorite accessories: striped shirts, fat belts and the PGA Championship, British and U.S. Open trophies.  COLOR PHOTOERIK PEREL/ICON SMI (BARRETT)

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