Sportscaster Myron Cope Passes Away
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ― From the Terrible Towel to the memorable Pittsburgh sayings, Myron Cope is a legend in sports broadcasting, but today his distinctive voice was silenced. He was 79.
And when it comes to colorful characters, Pittsburgh has produced none more unique than Cope.
But before Cope ever graced the airwaves, he was celebrated for his outstanding writing and special features for Sports Illustrated and the Saturday Evening Post. He was a star in the world of sports writing, but otherwise an unknown.
Then in 1968, a radio executive invited him to broadcast a brief daily sports commentary.
"What? My voice? But the radio executive said, 'We think we see a trend toward obnoxious voices,'" said Cope.
Those commentaries led to a spot in the Steelers broadcast booth starting in 1970, and soon after Cope began hosting a nightly sports call-in show.
The fans respected Cope, and Cope respected the fans, but he always made it fun, win or lose.
"The Steelers never had any cheerleaders," said retired Steeler, Dwayne Woodruff. "With Myron Cope, we didn't need any cheerleaders."
Cope invented the Terrible Towel in 1975 when the Steelers were headed into the playoffs and the broadcast bosses were looking for a gimmick.
"I said, what we need is something that everybody already has, so it doesn't cost a dime," said Cope. "So I says, 'We'll urge people to bring out to the game gold or black towels, then I'll tell people if you don't have a yellow, black or gold towel, buy one. And if you don't want to buy one, dye one. And I said, "We'll call this the Terrible Towel.'"
In the mid 90s, Cope turned over all the royalties from sales of his official Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School for children and adults with mental retardation. Cope's son, who was born with severe autism, has been a resident there since 1982.
"It helps us purchase very important equipment, lifting equipment, bathing equipment, sensory equipment," said school representative, Dorothy Gordon, "all sorts of equipment that helps to improve the quality of life for the people with mental retardation."
The 2005 Steelers season was the first in 35 years without Cope's color commentary. He announced his retirement the summer before.
His departure from the broadcast booth brought one honor after another including an award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame as well as the key to the city.
In another city, all of this might have never happened, but somehow, it was an ideal match - a homegrown original who was embraced by a town less impressed by polish and perfection, than by real heart.
"To me, the thing I am most proud of is my credibility. I've always guarded it," said Cope. "I want people to believe that if I say something, I know what I'm talking about, or at least partially, and that's what I believe."
In his recent memoir, Steelers Chairman, Dan Rooney, admitted he didn't like the name Cope gave to the most memorable play in Steelers history-- Franco Harris's 'Immaculate Reception.' Rooney said at first he thought it was sacrilegious, but he eventually came around.
However, Cope said he actually didn't come up with the term 'Immaculate Reception,' instead a caller did, but Cope bestowed that name upon the catch on the 11 o'clock news the night of the game.
He is survived by two children: Daniel and Elizabeth.