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Myron Cope 1929-2008

Country : Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Profession : Sportscaster
Date of birth : 1929-01-23
Date of death : 2008-02-27
Cause of Death : Pneumonia

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

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". Cope was the first football announcer inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Cope's autobiography, Double Yoi!, was published in 2002. Legislation honoring Cope is currently pending before the United States House of Representatives, having already passed in the United States Senate.

Education and early career

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cope graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School and the University of Pittsburgh. He was originally a journalist before becoming a broadcaster. His first job was in Erie, Pennsylvania, with the Daily Times, and by the summer of 1951, he was working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Cope then became a freelance journalist, most notably for Sports Illustrated, the Saturday Evening Post, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In 1963, Cope received the E.P. Dutton Prize for "Best Magazine Sportswriting in the Nation," for a portrayal of Cassius Clay. Cope spent the 1983 college football season as a color analyst for the Pittsburgh Panthers. In 1987, he was named by the Hearst Corporation as a noted literary achiever, along with Mark Twain, Jack London, Frederick Remington, Walter Winchell, and Sidney Sheldon. 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.

Family life

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

Cope had three children, Elizabeth, Martha Ann, and Daniel. Martha Ann died shortly after her birth. 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. Cope devoted much of his time and energy to Pittsburgh causes addressing autism, and spoke candidly about his experiences as the parent of an autistic child and his efforts to better educate the public at large about autism.

Steelers broadcasting

In 1968, Cope began a talk show on what was then WTAE-AM radio in Pittsburgh. 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.

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.

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."

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"). 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."

Terrible Towel

Cope played a large role in the invention of the Terrible Towel 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. 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".

In 1996, Cope gave the rights to The Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. The school provides care for more than 900 people with mental retardation and physical disabilities, including Cope's autistic son. Proceeds from the Terrible Towel have helped raise more than $2.2 million for the school.

Retirement and death

Cope announced his retirement from broadcasting on June 20, 2005, citing health concerns. 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." Upon his retirement, the Steelers did not replace Cope, opting instead to downsize to a two-man broadcast team.

On October 31, 2005, Cope was honored for his lifetime accomplishments at halftime of the contest between the Steelers and the Ravens. 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. 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. Two days after his death, hundreds of people gathered in heavy snow in front of City Hall in Pittsburgh to honor Cope; included in the ceremony was one minute of silent Terrible Towel waving. His funeral, which was held on February 29, 2008, was private.

List of awards and honors

Cope received many awards and honors, including:

  • 1963 - E.P. Dutton Prize for "Best Magazine Sportswriting in the Nation" for his portrayal of Cassius Clay
  • 1987 - Named as a noted literary achiever by Hearst Corporation
  • 2004 - His profile of Howard Cosell was selected as one of 50 all-time classic articles by Sports Illustrated
  • 2005 - Became the first pro football announcer elected to the Radio Hall of Fame
  • 2005 - Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for long-time exceptional contributions to pro football in television and radio[24]
  • Held the title of "special contributor" at Sports Illustrated
  • Served as a board member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Autism Society of America and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
  • Co-founded the Myron Cope/Foge Fazio Golf Tournament for Autistic Children
  • The only broadcaster appointed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors, serving for 10 years
  • The asteroid 7835 Myroncope was named in his honor in 2008.

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