The term 40/40 Club used to just refer to the four legendary stars of Major League Baseball who achieved 40 home run and 40 stolen bases in a single season. While the 40/40 Club will always be known within the baseball community as a great feat combining power and speed, hip hop mogul Jay Z has done his part to make sure his 40/40 Club is in the back of our minds when the term is used.
Jose Canseco was the first to achieve the feat in 1988 as a member of the Oakland Athletics and was joined eight years later by Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. In 1998, Alex Rodriguez joined the club as a Texas Ranger and Alfonso Soriano was the most recent to join the group for the Chicago Cubs in 2006. Despite their success, all four men will need to compete with Jay Z for recognition when the term is used.
Jay Z opened The 40/40 Club in 2003 and it has been a staple in Manhattan ever since. It helped him put two of his greatest loves - music and sports - together under one roof. The walls of the club are lined with gold-plated regulation size baseball bats that mimic sound waves. The club closed briefly in 2011 to undergo a $10 million, 12,000 square foot renovation, but opened again in January 2012 and is still one of the ideal places for New York's favorite athletes to come on an off day.
Upon entering the club, customers are greeted with a large television on the beautiful four-sided bar with an Armand de Brignac ("Ace of Spades") Champagne Tower of Jay Z's own personal champagne. Once past the bar, five levels of stadium seating make you feel as though you're sitting on the 50-yard line at Lambeau Field, first row behind home plate at Yankee Stadium, or rubbing elbows with Kobe Bryant and Jack Nicholson on the court at the Staples Center. When you get a chance to walk around the club, the sight of countless autographed jerseys and other sports memorabilia will take your breath away.
The collection of memorabilia at the club is one of the most impressive in the world. In fact, the club has had so many great pieces of memorabilia donated; it doesn't have room to showcase everything. Included in the collection of items that are currently in storage are a signed Ronaldinho jersey and World Wrestling Federation championship belt from Kurt Angle. While these pieces are stashed away, what are some of the most unique and special pieces of memorabilia at Jay Z's 40/40 Club?
The greatest collection in the club is on display in The Jay Z Lounge, one of five private lounges on the property. The Infinity Showcase features some of the greatest memorabilia ever assembled in one room. The centerpiece of the collection are signed gloves from the 1974 "Fight of the Century" between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. The showcase also features Kobe Bryant's 2008 Olympic gold medal from Beijing, which was sent to the club by the NBA champion after realizing that he didn't have any memorabilia on display at the club.
Also included in the display is Chris Paul's NBA Rookie of the Year Award, as well as various awards from Alex Rodriguez, including two Silver Slugger Awards, a Babe Ruth Award and his Hank Aaron Award. The showcase also features a signed Barry Bonds baseball bat, a Magic Johnson signed basketball, and a Roger Staubach signed football.
It isn't only the Infinity Showcase that features a great collection of memorabilia at the club. Just walking through the halls, the rows of jerseys will impress and sports fan. From Willie Mays to Mark Messier to Michael Jordan to Bo Jackson, anyone in sports will know they are a star when their items are on display at the club. Several of the jerseys are customized for the club, including uniforms from Patrick Ewing, David Beckham, Joe Morgan, Julius Erving and Eli Manning.
One of the best parts of the collection is a small portion of a wall lined with autographed jerseys from the four members of the 40/40 Club. Canseco signed his jersey with "1st 40/40 to the 40/40 Club," while Rodriguez signed his "To the 40/40 Club, all the best," and Soriano signed his with "To 40/40 Club." Bonds left his jersey without a special message, signing only his name on his No. 25 jersey.
It's hard to believe that one of the best collections of sports memorabilia is found at a club, but Jay Z has helped make that possible. From time-to-time, pieces will be switched in-and-out depending on what new pieces are donated to the club, so one never knows what treasure they could find at The 40/40 Club.
For more pictures of memorabilia from The 40/40 Club, please click here.
Hobson Lopes can be followed on Twitter @HobsonLopes.