Single-A team celebrates 815th sellout

DAYTON, Ohio -- The Dayton Dragons celebrated their record sellout streak with their famous owners, Magic Johnson and Archie Griffin.

The Class-A farm team of the Cincinnati Reds broke a record for sold-out games by professional sports franchise in the United States two weeks ago with its 815th straight packed-to-capacity house.

The NBA's Portland Trail Blazers had a sellout string of 814.

On Saturday, the Dragons commemorated the milestone with ceremonies and celebrities.

Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers' star who was approached by Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber to invest in the Dragons, says nobody could have seen the streak coming.

Griffin, the two-time Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, says he knew he made a good investment once he saw the enthusiasm of the fans in the first season of 2000.

Johnson built Magic Johnson Enterprises, especially in urban areas, since his retirement from the Lakers.

Guber, who runs Dragons parent company Mandalay Baseball Properties, helped Johnson in his formative business days, but when Guber suggested minor league baseball he wasn't sure.

"I had to step back for a minute; I thought he was crazy," Johnson said. "I never thought that we would have this streak. I knew we would have a great organization because Peter knows how to run organizations. I believed in Peter first. I knew he would take me to a level that we're at today."

That level is one that sells all 7,230 seats plus overflow tickets for the lawn above the right-field wall that routinely pushes the attendance over 8,000. The Dragons do it with a business philosophy that they say puts fans first. In turn, the fans have put the Dragons first in attendance.

"I think that this team has over-delivered to the community, and I think that the community has over-delivered to us," Johnson said. "It's all about Dayton and the people who live here."

The fans were treated to lots of special appearances, and their favorite was easily when Johnson and Griffin appeared on the field after the fourth inning in green Dragons jerseys.

After Griffin said, "I've always believed that Ohio has the best fans," the two owners counted down the unveiling of the first Dragons jersey to be retired.

The jersey displayed on the left-field fence bore the No. 1 with "Dragons Fans" as the name on the back of the jersey. The fans responded enthusiastically and waved the long green, orange and white balloons that were handed out.

The fans were also treated to an appearance by former Dragons and current Cincinnati Reds Chris Heisey, Logan Ondrusek and Drew Stubbs after the fifth inning. After an afternoon game in Cincinnati, the three Reds took a helicopter ride to Fifth Third Field and congratulated the fans on the record.

For a change, the Dragons are contending this season with a two-game lead in the Midwest League Eastern Division second-half standings. That's not a fact that has escaped Johnson every day in Los Angeles.

"I pick up the USA Today and I look at the Midwest," Johnson said. "I want to see if we won or lost."