Jim Thome hit a lot of home runs and helped the Cleveland Indians sell out Jacobs Field for several years. The Philadelphia Phillies hope he does the same at their new stadium.

Thome, the most coveted hitter in the free agent market, agreed yesterday to a six-year contract with the Phillies, two baseball officials said. He accepted a deal worth about $87.5 million, one of the officials said on the condition of anonymity.

For the deal to become final, the 32-year-old first baseman must pass a physical.

The Phillies are aggressively trying to improve as they prepare to move into their new ballpark in 2004.

Philadelphia agreed to a four-year, $17 million contract with third baseman David Bell on Nov. 24. The Phillies also have a three-year, $30 million offer out to free agent left-hander Tom Glavine, a two-time NL Cy Young winner.

Thome, who hit a club-record 52 homers for the Indians last season, turned down a five-year, $60 million offer from the only team he has played for since he was a 13th-round pick in the 1989 amateur draft. The left-handed slugger has a .287 batting average, 334 homers and 927 RBI in a 12-year major league career.


Slocum Fired After 14 Years

Texas A&M fired football coach R.C. Slocum, ending his 14-year tenure with the school. The Aggies went a disappointing 6-6 in the regular season, capped by a 50-20 loss to Texas on Friday.

Slocum's 123 career wins were the most in school history. But fans were disappointed that the Aggies have become less competitive in the Big 12 South -- their 3-5 finish was their first losing record in league play since 1984.

"It was with great sadness and disappointment that I learned today that I was being fired as the head football coach at Texas A&M," Slocum said in a prepared statement.

Slocum was 123-47-2 at Texas A&M, but he was just 29-23 over the last four years and has lost three straight to Texas. . . .

Tulsa football coach Keith Burns announced his resignation after going 7-28 in three seasons. Burns went 2-21 the last two seasons, including 1-11 this year. The university said it would begin searching for a replacement immediately. . . .

Three Maryland players won weekly honors in the ACC. Todd Wike was voted the best offensive lineman after the Terps averaged 6.7 yards per play; linebacker E.J. Henderson (19 tackles, an interception and safety) was named top defensive lineman and Nick Novack (three field goals, 12 points) earned special teams praise. . . .

New Mexico accepted a bid to play in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Lobos (7-6) will play a team from the Pac-10 on Dec. 25. They clinched the school's third bowl bid in 41 years with a 49-20 win over Wyoming on Saturday. . . .

The George Mason and American volleyball teams were drawn into the 64-team NCAA tournament field announced late Sunday night. George Mason (22-7) will travel to South Bend, Ind., to play Michigan State (19-11) in a first-round match on Saturday. American (26-7) will play No. 24 South Carolina (21-6) on Thursday in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Auto Racing

Team Gibbs at White House

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart were at the White House, invited by President Bush in honor of Gibbs's team championship. It was Gibbs's second stock-car racing championship in the past three seasons and the first for Stewart, who piloted the No. 20 Pontiac to the title.

Stewart accompanied Gibbs on the visit as part of an entourage that included Gibbs's wife, Pat; Home Depot CEO Robert L. Nardelli; crew chief Greg Zipadelli; and officials from NASCAR and series sponsor R.J. Reynolds.

"To see those guys get to do that is so exciting," Gibbs said. "And of course I'm excited, too. It's something unusual that very few people get to do."


ESPN to Show James

LeBron James is bringing high school basketball back to ESPN. The network will televise the Dec. 12 game between the star senior's team from St. Vincent-St. Mary's High of Akron, Ohio, and Virginia's Oak Hill Academy. It's ESPN's first regular season prep game since 1989. . . .

Milwaukee Bucks forward Toni Kukoc could miss up to six weeks after right thumb surgery. Kukoc tore a ligament in his non-shooting hand on Nov. 15, during the Bucks' overtime loss at the Indiana Pacers. He played in eight games since but was in pain.

Horse Racing

Noted Owner Dies

Longtime Maryland horse owner and breeder Milton J. "Laddie" Dance, 76, whose colt Lemon Drop Kid won the 1999 Belmont Stakes, died last Thursday. . . .

Polish Numbers, one of the leading thoroughbred stallions in Maryland, was euthanized Friday after shattering a tibia in a barn accident.

President Bush greets Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart at the Oval Office, while Chief of Staff Andrew Card, rear left, and team owner Joe Gibbs share a laugh during the ceremony.