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HOT TIPS : THE DIAMOND IS A BEAR'S BEST FRIEND.

Move over, Mom and apple pie. Beanie Baby look-alikes have made it to the big leagues.

``Bamm Beanos,'' colorful plush bears featuring the names of fearsome sluggers like St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire and Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa, are capturing the hearts and wallets of baseball-crazy boys and beanie-happy girls.

``They're very popular,'' said Carlos Gonzalez, an employee at Acta Game Guys in Van Nuys. ``Not just ladies and kids collect them.''

The colorful collectibles (suggested retail price: $7.95) are close cousins to the beloved Beanie Babies, a trademark of Ty Inc. But these plush toys are the latest from Wayne and Rick Salvino, a pair of entrepreneurs who have been turning out pro sports collectibles since 1989.

The first series of 12 Salvino Inc. ``Opening Day Sluggers'' was released on Sunday in conjunction with Major League Baseball's season opener. The new bears are twice as tall as previous ``Bammers,'' a nod to some of the larger-than-life players whose names are stitched on their plush backs.

In addition to McGwire and Sosa, the slugger series includes Cardinal J.D. Drew, Anaheim Angel Mo Vaughn, New York Yankee Derek Jeter, Baltimore Oriole Albert Belle, Chicago Cub Kerry Wood, New York Met Mike Piazza, Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell, Boston Red Sox Nomar Garciaparra, Arizona Diamondback Randy Johnson and Toronto Blue Jay David Wells.

The bears can be purchased at most major chain stores and collectible shops.

- Phil Davis

'Breit spring

Artist Mary Engelbreit has stepped into the garden and made what some consider a dirty job look like fun.

In her newest crop of books - ``Gardener's Journal'' (Andrews McMeel Publishing; $12.95) and ``Mary Engelbreit's Spring'' (Andrews McMeel Publishing; $10.95), the artist - with the help of writer Charlotte Lyons and photographer Barbara Elliott Martin - paints pictures of gardens as magical places that nurture the soul and provide swell floral centerpieces for the dinner table.

In ``Gardener's Journal,'' Engelbreit packs the pages with tips for all levels of gardeners, including the black-thumb variety.

She even lays down the law on picking flowers. State flowers like poppies are a 'round the clock no-no, but most flowers should be picked in the early morning or after sundown. Except roses, which are best picked in midafternoon.

- Barbara De Witt

Style gets in-line

Looks like a skate. Feels like a sneaker.

That's the idea behind the Women's Air Zoom Flex, Nike's newest in-line skates just for ladies. The biggest name in athletic shoes took a pair of its cushiest snazziest-looking sneakers, popped them on top of some slick, clear wheels and held it all together with frames so light and flexible they make it easy to forget you're wearing skates.

In fact, if you're used to wearing the stiffer, heavier in-line skates designed more like ski boots, the increase in range of motion might take some getting used to. Nike reps say some people experience soreness in the shins on the first couple of runs because of the flexibility, but eventually the extra workout is supposed to be beneficial.

Air Zoom Flex comes in women's shoe sizes 5 to 12 and retails for $200.

But one detail Nike may have missed is a skate for the woman who likes a variety of splashy, colorful shoes. So far, the Flex only comes in one style: black with pebble gray and lime detailing.

- Sharline Chiang

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

Photo: (1--Color) ``Bamm Beanos'' bear the names of some of baseball's biggest stars.

(2--Color) no caption (Gardener's Journal)

(3--Color) no caption (Women's Air Zoom Flex)
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 10, 1999
Words:587
Previous Article:UCLA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: CHIEF PRIORITY: FORWARD WALL.
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