Myron Cope

Myron Cope

Cope during his final radio show in 1995.
Born Myron Sidney Kopelman
January 23, 1929
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died February 27, 2008(2008-02-27) (aged 79)
Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Sports commentary career

Team(s) Pittsburgh Steelers
Genre(s) Sports
Sports American football

Myron Cope (January 23, 1929 – February 27, 2008), born Myron Sidney Kopelman,[1] was an American sports journalist, radio personality, and sportscaster. He is best known for being "the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers."[2]

Cope was a color commentator for the Steelers' radio broadcasts for 35 years. He was known for his distinctive, nasally voice with an identifiable Pittsburgh accent, idiosyncratic speech pattern, and a level of excitement rarely exhibited in the broadcast booth. Cope's most notable catch phrase was "yoi"[3] /ˈjɔɪ/. Cope was the first football announcer inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.[4] Cope's autobiography, Double Yoi!, was published in 2002.[5] Legislation honoring Cope is currently pending before the United States House of Representatives,[2] having already passed in the United States Senate.[6]

Education and early career

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Jewish parents of Lithuanian ancestry, Cope graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in 1947 and was inducted into their alumni hall of fame in 2009.[7][8] He also graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.[9] He was originally a journalist before becoming a broadcaster. His first job was in Erie, Pennsylvania, with the Daily Times,[10] and by the summer of 1951, he was working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.[11] Cope then became a freelance journalist, most notably for Sports Illustrated,[1] the Saturday Evening Post,[10] and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.[4] In 1963, Cope received the E.P. Dutton Prize for "Best Magazine Sportswriting in the Nation", for a portrayal of Cassius Clay.[12] Cope spent the 1983 college football season as a color analyst for the Pittsburgh Panthers.[9] In 1987, he was named by the Hearst Corporation as a noted literary achiever, along with Mark Twain, Jack London, Frederic Remington, Walter Winchell, and Sidney Sheldon.[12] At its 50th Anniversary, Sports Illustrated selected Cope's profile of Howard Cosell as one of the 50 best written works ever published in the magazine.[4]

Family life

Cope married Mildred Lindberg of Charleston in 1965, and the couple moved to Mt. Lebanon.[13] In 1972, the Copes moved to nearby Upper St. Clair.[14] Mildred died on September 20, 1994.[11] In 1999, Cope moved back to Mt. Lebanon, to a condo in the Woodridge neighborhood.[14] He remained there until his final days, when he entered a Mt. Lebanon nursing home,[10] and is claimed by Mt. Lebanon as a "native."[2]

Cope had three children, Elizabeth, Martha Ann, and Daniel.[11] Martha Ann died shortly after her birth.[15] His son, Daniel, was born with severe autism; he has lived most of his life at the Allegheny Valley School, an institution specializing in intellectual developmental disabilities.[16] Cope devoted much of his time and energy to Pittsburgh causes addressing autism, and spoke candidly about his experiences as the parent of a child with autism and his efforts to better educate the public at large about autism.[16]

Steelers broadcasting

Cope waves a Terrible Towel at Heinz Field – October 31, 2005

In 1968, Cope began doing daily sports commentaries on what was then WTAE-AM radio in Pittsburgh.[17] His unique nasal voice, with a distinctive Pittsburgh area accent, was noticed by the Steelers' brass, and he made his debut as a member of the Steelers' radio team in 1970.[18]

During Cope's 35-year broadcasting career with the Steelers—the longest term with a single team in NFL history—he was accompanied by only two play-by-play announcers: the late Jack Fleming, with whom he broadcast until 1994, followed by Bill Hillgrove, who still fills this broadcast role today.[10][15]

In keeping with his comic personality, a series of television commentaries on WTAE-TV saw Cope calling himself "Doctor Cope" and wearing a white lab coat while pretending to examine the opposing team's strengths and weaknesses. His predictor was known as the "Cope-ra-scope."[19]

Catchphrases and Nicknames

Like other sports announcers in Pittsburgh, particularly Penguins commentator Mike Lange and the late Pirates announcer Bob Prince, Cope had a repertoire of unique catchphrases employed in his broadcasts, such as "Mmm-Hah!" and "Okel Dokel" (his version of "okey dokey").[10] Cope often used Yiddish expressions, especially "Feh!" and "Yoi!" (sometimes multiplied as "Double Yoi" or rarely "Triple Yoi").

Cope also created nicknames for many players and opposing teams. It was Cope who popularized "The Bus" as a nickname for former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, "Jack Splat" for Jack Lambert, and he gave Kordell Stewart the nickname "Slash."[20]

Cope also used the term "Cincinnati Bungles" to describe their division rivals, known during the 1990s for a string of bad seasons and numerous draft busts.

Terrible Towel

Main article: Terrible Towel

"I said, what we need is something that everybody already has, so it doesn't cost a dime. 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. We'll call this the Terrible Towel."

— Myron Cope on the invention of the Terrible Towel[21]

Cope played a large role in the invention of the Terrible Towel.[22] Needing a way to excite the fans during a 1975 playoff game against the Baltimore Colts, Cope urged fans to take yellow dish towels to the game and wave them throughout.[21] Originally, Cope wanted to sell rubber Jack Lambert masks, but realizing the high costs for the masks, opted for the inexpensive option for the Terrible Towel. The Terrible Towel has gained much popularity since its invention and "is arguably the best-known fan symbol of any major pro sports team".[22]

In 1996, Cope gave the rights to The Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.[16] The school provides care for more than 900 people[23] with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities, including Cope's son who has severe autism.[3] Proceeds from the Terrible Towel have helped raise $3 million for the school.[24]

Retirement and death

A special edition of "The Terrible Towel" was created in honor of Cope's retirement following the 2005 Steelers' season.

Cope announced his retirement from broadcasting on June 20, 2005, citing health concerns.[25] Eight days later, it was announced that Cope was the recipient of the Pete Rozelle Award for "long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football."[26] Upon his retirement, the Steelers did not replace Cope, opting instead to downsize to a two-man broadcast team.[15]

On October 31, 2005, Cope was honored for his lifetime accomplishments at halftime of the contest between the Steelers and the Ravens.[27] In addition, the Steelers produced a special commemorative edition Terrible Towel with his familiar expressions printed on it. As seen on the towel, production was limited to 35,000 towels, representing 35 years of service to the Steelers. Later that season when the team advanced to Super Bowl XL, many Steeler fans wanted Cope to come out of retirement just to call "The one for the thumb." Cope declined partially for health reasons and partially to enjoy retirement.

Cope died of respiratory failure at a Mt. Lebanon nursing home on the morning of February 27, 2008.[15][28] In the days following his death, many ceremonies were held in his honor, including the local sporting events of the Pittsburgh Panthers college basketball team.[29] Two days after his death, hundreds of people gathered in heavy snow in front of the Pittsburgh City Hall to honor Cope; included in the ceremony was one minute of silent Terrible Towel waving.[30] His funeral, which was held on February 29, 2008, was private.[31] Due to Cope's large impact on the Pittsburgh area, Bob Smizik, a local sportswriter wrote,

"Had the secret of the service and its site not been kept,...tens of thousands would have descended on the...funeral home... Such was the affection for Cope,...that the parkway in both directions would have been clogged. Greentree and Cochran roads, the two main arteries leading to the funeral home, would have been parking lots."[31]

List of awards and honors

Cope received many awards and honors, including:



  1. 1 2 "Myron Cope". Radio Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
  2. 1 2 3 H.Res. 1033
  3. 1 2 Fybush, Scott (2008-03-03). "This Week's Bloodbath: Citadel". NorthEast Radio Watch.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Gene Collier (2008-02-28). "Remembering Myron Cope: He spoke for Steelers Nation in a language all his own". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  5. Cope, Myron (2002). Double Yoi!. Sports Publishing, L.L.C. p. 229. ISBN 1-58261-548-9.
  6. S.Res. 467
  7. Hecht, Steve (August 27, 2009). "Comedian Marty Allen part of Allderdice's first hall class". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  8. Collins, Mark (September 1996). "Everything is Cope-aesthetic". Pitt Magazine. University of Pittsburgh. Archived from the original on December 30, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-25.
  9. 1 2 "Terrible Towel Day Honors Cope". KDKA-TV. Associated Press. 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "Myron Cope, ex-Steelers announcer, dead at 79". Erie Times-News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  11. 1 2 3 Cope, Myron (2002). Double Yoi!. Sports Publishing, L.L.C. ISBN 1-58261-548-9.
  12. 1 2 Gene Collier (2008-02-27). "Obituary: Myron Cope's career spanned newspapers, magazines, radio and TV". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  13. "Myron Cope". The Charleston Gazette. 1968-06-20.
  14. 1 2 Kevin Kirkland (2006-11-04). "Yoi-cation is everything: Myron Cope, Frank Gustine Jr. downsized to Mt. Lebanon". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Alan Robinson. "Steelers' former radio announcer Myron Cope dies at 79". Yahoo! Sports, via Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  16. 1 2 3 Allegheny Valley School (2008-02-27). "Allegheny Valley School Mourns the Loss of Myron Cope". Allegheny Valley School. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  17. "Myron Cope, 79, Long-time Color Analyst". Pittsburgh Steelers. Retrieved 2009-02-17. He then took over a nightly talk show on the station in 1973.
  18. "Myron Cope". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
  19. "Popular Cope expressions, or Cope-isms". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
  20. "Myron Cope". Steelers Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  21. 1 2 KDKA (2008-02-27). "Myron Cope Was A 'Pittsburgh Original'". CBS Broadcasting. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  22. 1 2 "Former Steelers broadcaster, Terrible Towel creator Cope dies". ESPN. Associated Press. 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  23. "Mission & History". Allegheny Valley School. Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  24. Dvorchak, Robert (2009-08-30). "The 'Terrible Towel' that changes lives". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  25. "Cope also created Terrible Towel". AP. June 21, 2005. Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  26. 1 2 "Steelers' Cope named 2005 Rozelle Award winner". Pro Football Hall of Fame. 2005-06-28. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  27. Robert Dvorchak (2005-11-01). "Cope officially throws in towel". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  28. Richard Goldstein (2008-02-29). "Steelers' Myron Cope, 79, Writer and Steelers Broadcaster, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  29. "Pitt plans Cope tribute". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  30. Moriah Balingit (2008-02-29). "Hundreds join Terrible Towel wave in memory of Cope". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  31. 1 2 Smizik, Bob (2008-03-02). "Cope was beloved, and he loved right back ... a commentary". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
  32. Donald K. Yeomans (2008-06-12). "7835 Myroncope (1993 MC)". JPL Small-Body Database Browser.
  33. Gigler, Dan (2008-06-12). "And it will land on Cleveland ...". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-06-12.

See also

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