02.27.08

Lowering The (Steel) Curtain On Myron Cope

Posted in Gridiron, Sports Journalism, Sports Radio at 9:35 am by

From the Pittsburgh Gazette’s Gene Collier (thanks to Dave Martin for the link) :



Myron Cope, colorful sports broadcaster and reporter whose Terrible Towel remains the banner of the Steelers nation, has died.

In declining health since even before his 2005 retirement after a record 35 years of Steelers broadcasts, Mr. Cope died this morning of respiratory failure.

He was 79.

One of the last of the great sports characters, Mr. Cope’s life and career were nothing less than book-worthy, even if he had to write it himself. Twice.

“Double Yoi” it was called both times, the second an updated version of the original 2002 volume, the title immortalizing one of Mr. Cope’s signature exclamations, which, along with “Okle-dokle,” “Dumbkopf!”, and “How do?”, became so familiar to his radio and TV audiences.

He was best known as the squawking talisman of Steelers football and had the good fortune of arriving on the scene just as the ballclub was escaping some four decades of losing. Cope hit the glory road sprinting in 1970 and never lost momentum for the next 30 years. Locally, his celebrity dwarfed many of the players, even those of Super Bowl pedigree, and was surpassed by only a very few.

Regardless of the ever-more-corporate-imaged NFL he’d walked into, Mr. Cope remained a wag and raconteur of a sporting era from the other side of that transition. Though he was riding the new Pittsburgh wave of Dan and Art Rooney Jr.’s strictly business acumen and seasoned football calculations, he still had both feet in the smoke-filled rooms and occasional “toddy’s” of Art Rooney Sr.’s world, which thrived on seat-of-the-pants adventurism.

Once at halftime in Cleveland, Cope found his intermission routine interrupted by an occupied restroom on old Municipal Stadium’s roof, which is where the radio booths were situated. His long-standing para-military ritual of urinate, get a hot dog, and get back to the action now jeopardized, he improvised. Without being too graphic, let’s just say that anyone walking by Municipal Stadium near that portion of the roof in the ensuring minutes had to wonder from where that sudden shower had come.

Mr. Cope’s magazine writing took its inevitable place among the nation’s very best. In 1963, he won the E.P. Dutton Prize for “Best Magazine Sportswriting in the Nation” for his portrayal of Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay.

“Cope’s columns in the Post-Gazette were in contrast to what had ever been in the paper, they were dazzling,” said Mr. McHugh, himself a writer of immense skills. “In the ’60s, there was a certain type of magazine style that no one was ever better at than Myron. He could talk to someone and extract all the humor possible from that person.”

In 1987, on the occasion of the Hearst Corp.’s 100th anniversary, Mr. Cope was named as a noted literary achiever, among them Mark Twain, Jack London, Frederick Remington, Walter Winchell and Sidney Sheldon.

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