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Sports' hidden beauties

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People magazine's annual list of the world's 50 most beautiful people hits newsstands today -- the Sagarin computer rankings and the UPI/Coaches poll are due next week -- and the bad news is Baltimore starter Scott Erickson missed the cut this year. Apparently, when he went in for Tommy John surgery last summer, he should have opted for one of those Catherine Zeta-Jones eye tucks instead.

Cheryl Haworth
Cheryl Haworth could bench press all of the women on People's list.
The good news is that thanks to convincing victories over Jason Sehorn, Derek Jeter and Anna Kourniova on New Year's Day, shortstop Alex Rodriguez, Raiders coach Jon Gruden and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant each cracked the top 25. Bryant celebrated the honor by signing up Shaquille O'Neal for 37 subscriptions to People, while Rodriguez earned $50,000 thanks to yet another incentive clause in his $252 million contract.

While it's refreshing to see those three among the likes of Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, it's frustrating to see the many deserving athletes who were again snubbed.

With some, perhaps their strength of schedule was lacking. With others, perhaps it was an oversight so horrendous it couldn't be corrected with Elton John's biggest eyeglasses. But most likely, People obviously didn't realize, that beauty, like an Allen Iverson tattoo, is only skin deep.

Whatever the reasons, certainly these 10 sports figures belong on People's list.

Don Zimmer, New York Yankees bench coach
Because he played infield with Jackie Robinson, and he's still in uniform. Because even if there isn't a steel plate in his head, his baseball cap fits like a crown. Because pinstripes always make a man look good.

Don Zimmer
The venerable Don Zimmer is always in style.
Dennis Rodman, former NBA rebounding machine
Because not many men can pull off purple hair as well as he does. Because anyone who dated Madonna and Carmen Electra must know something. Because he always has room for one more tattoo for that special someone. Because he has a wedding dress ready, just in case.

Joe Paterno, Penn State football coach
Because in an era when college coaches change jobs more often then college students change hairstyles, his photogray specs and highwater pants have been a fashion staple on the Penn State sideline since Nehru jackets were all the rage. Because he was winning bowl games when tie-dye and bellbottoms were in -- each time around.

Pat Summitt, Tennessee women's basketball coach
Because she's so driven to succeed she finished a recruiting visit while she was in labor. Because when she focuses her eyes on you with that withering glare, she doesn't need to add, "That's 'Coach' Summitt or 'Ms.' Summitt." Because no one looks better in heels while diagramming a triangle-and-two.

Rulon Gardner, wrestler
Because after he ended the longest Russian reign since Peter the Great, no one makes fun of his weight anymore. Because those cauliflower ears deserve to hear someone whisper sweet nothings into them.

Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman is still able to make just about any hair color work for him.
Cheryl Haworth, weightlifter
Because she could deadlift Courtney Cox, Calista Flockhart and Meg Ryan without breaking a sweat. Because she's at peace with her body. Because if she was a man, no one would think twice about her weight. Because the most important part of her 290 pounds are those precious ounces of Olympic medal she can wear around her neck.

The Hanson Brothers, hockey icons
Because they wore black, horn-rimmed glasses long before it was trendy. Because they're back on the ice after 24 years. Because they starred in a movie with Paul Newman -- and they were the ones everyone remembers.

Rich Garces, Boston Red Sox reliever
Because when all the good restaurants are booked, El Guapo is a man who obviously is on a first name basis with every maître d' in town. Because if he can play in the majors with a body like that, there's hope for the rest of us.

Laila Ali, boxer
Because she doesn't wear stiletto heels and a swimsuit while carrying a round card -- yet she still belongs in a boxing ring. Because she's keeping the Ali name in boxing, even though it means that face isn't quite so pretty afterward. Because you better watch your hands on a first date with her, mister.

Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers center
Because he finally has a championship ring to wear for a night on the town. Because it has been eight years since "Shaq Diesel." Because there would be major problems in the playoffs if Kobe made People's list, and he didn't make ours. But mostly because we didn't want to be the one to tell him he didn't make it.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for

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