Cubs home run slugger Sammy Sosa has signed a five-year endorsement deal with Chicago-based retailer Montgomery Ward & Co., the company said.

"Sammy plays way beyond Chicago. He plays coast to coast. His popularity is universal. He's popular with all of our customers, he's popular with women, he's popular with everybody," Ward's Chairman and Chief Executive Roger Goddu said.

Sosa's five-year deal with Ward's includes television and radio commercials, print advertising, public appearances, merchandise tie-ins and autograph sessions. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

In a sign of the baseball star's growing appeal, a popular Chicago restaurant earlier in the week dropped retired basketball great Michael Jordan as its namesake and replaced him with Sosa.

Michael Jordan's Restaurant has been one of the top tourist draws in the Windy City. Under the new arrangement, Jordan's will become Sosa's next year.

"Nobody can replace Michael Jordan," Sosa said. "I always say that Michael Jordan is the man. But I am right next to Michael."

MARLINS SEEK BALLPARK: Reversing his earlier position, Marlins owner John Henry now says he must have taxpayer help if the team is to build a new ballpark. Otherwise, he said, "Baseball in South Florida is doomed."

While campaigning this year for a new stadium, Henry repeatedly said he would pay the cost himself if necessary. But the multimillionaire commodities trader said he changed his mind in the past month.

Henry, who bought the Marlins in January from Wayne Huizenga, proposes a $400 million ballpark. Without taxpayer help, the project would saddle the franchise with debt for decades, making it impossible to finance a contending team, Henry said.