Jack White and Alice Cooper celebrated Devil’s Night with retired baseball all-star Kirk Gibson on Wednesday night, trading stories about music and sports during a special panel discussion in downtown Detroit to benefit Gibson’s Foundation for Parkinson’s.
About 120 people, most paying $350 for the experience, crowded into the glass-roofed Birdy Room of the city’s hip Shinola Hotel to hear the three men talk, followed by White’s solo acoustic performances of the White Stripes‘ “We’re Going to Be Friends” and “Hotel Yorba.” Among those attending were MC5/MC50 guitarist Wayne Kramer and legendary music producer Bob Ezrin, both in town for some continuing recording for Cooper’s next album, due out during 2020.
Moderated by Ann Delisi of the local PBS affiliate WDET, the 25-minute discussion ranged from experiences with youth baseball and throwing out first pitches to choices for theoretical at-bat walk-up music the likelihood of White and Cooper turning into play-by-play announcers. White, who co-owns the Warstic baseball bat company, also talked about his rare 1919 World Series championship ring — the only one made and given to Cincinnati Reds manager Pat Moran after his team defeated a Chicago White Sox (aka Black Sox) team that had conspired to throw the series.
“(Moran) gave it to his son. His son gave it to the milkman, the milkman gave it to his son and I got it from that guy,” White — who endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign just four days prior during a rally at his old high school — said to general laughter. “We went to the Baseball Hall of Fame and they had their World Series rings there, and the oldest one they had was 1923, so it was pretty interesting.”
For his walk-up music, White chose the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” which has been a ubiquitous sports anthem since its release, while Cooper went with “Welcome to My Nightmare” and Gibson — who won World Series championships with the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers and managed the Arizona Diamondbacks and is currently a Tigers broadcaster — chose the White Stripes’ “Black Orchid.” Cooper and White spoke fondly about growing up learning to play baseball in Detroit — Cooper on the city’s east side, White at an inner-city park — and White revealed that he had hit up Gibson for some hitting tips during mid-June, when he hosted a benefit game at an old Negro League park in the area.
“I haven’t played baseball in months,” White recalled. “I said, ‘Can we call Gibby up and see if he knows somebody who can give me pointers on hitting again, ’cause I’m just gonna walk up there and strike out. And Gibby’s like, ‘No, I’ll show you some stuff’…I got four hits that day.”
Cooper and White also traded first-pitch stories, with White recalling that he brought his youth mitt with him and pitched to his tour manager, dressed as Santa Clause at home plate. “It was outside,” White remembered. “He had to reach over his Santa Claus stomach” to catch it. Cooper, meanwhile, has thrown out several first pitches in Detroit, always with a degree of levity.
“I told ’em right up front, ‘I’m not gonna go up and just kind of toss the ball. I’m gonna look like a man doing this’,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer quipped. “So I told the catcher, ‘Look, this is gonna come in 30, 40 miles per hour, so be careful — this is gonna hurt a little bit.’ But I put it over the left inside corner and it was a strike and I almost got a contract that night ’cause the Tigers were not playing that well and they looked and went, ‘Y’know, that’s a pretty good pitch…'”
Cooper and Gibson, who dressed as a Polaroid camera-toting Andy Warhol for the occasion, also engaged in a discussion about whether Major League baseballs have been “hotter” this season, as seems evident by a substantial increase in home runs. “They say the core’s built differently and there’s less drag on the ball,” Gibson said. “I wasn’t weak, but the way they hit ’em out now, man, something’s going on.”
On the music tip, Cooper shared an interesting story about his band’s early move to Los Angeles from Arizona, where it formed. “The very first time we played the Whisky A-Go-Go, we were a high school band,” he said. “We got to L.A. and we finally got to the Whisky. The Doors were the house band, and (the marquee read) Alice Cooper and…and I went, ‘Who’s Led Zeppelin?’ And the guy walked in and I said, ‘You would be the Yardbirds, right?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘We opened for you…'”
The evening also included a silent auction whose prizes included a Shinola turntable signed by White, the chance to play ping-pong against Cooper and Gibson and a guitar lesson from Kramer. More informaton about Gibson’s charity can be found at www.kirkgibsonfoundation.org.