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On June 21, 2005, legendary Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope retired after a 35-year stint as a color commentator for Steelers’ radio broadcasts. Cope was known for his distinctive, high-pitched nasally voice, and his accent epitomized the prototypical yinzer.
Cope blasted his listeners with an idiosyncratic speech pattern, demonstrating a level of excitement rarely heard on broadcasts, and peppered his commentary with his catch phrase, “yoi.” On those very special occasions, he offered up a boisterous “double yoi.”
Perhaps more important than his long career in the booth, Cope is known as the creator of The Terrible Towel. Through officially-licensed sales, The Terrible Towel has raised over $3 million for the Allegheny Valley School in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, a school that provides care for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Cope is one of the many personalities featured in Immaculate: How the Steelers Saved Pittsburgh. Below, please find an excerpt from Chapter 11, pages 101-103.
In addition to a new stadium and a new divisional and conference alignment, 1970 also brought another change to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was that year that Myron Cope began his 35-year run in the Steelers’ broadcast booth.
Myron Cope was born Myron Sidney Kopelman on January 23, 1929 in Pittsburgh. After graduating from Taylor Allderdice High School, he stayed local and attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied journalism.
It was journalism, as a writer, where Cope left his first marks on both Pittsburgh and the world of sports. His first job was with the Daily Times in Erie, Pennsylvania, but in short order, he was back in PIttsburgh with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
It wasn’t long before Cope became a freelance journalist, adding contributions to notable publications like Sports Illustrated and the Saturday Evening Post to his work with the Post-Gazette.
Cope was a distinguished sportswriter. In 1963, he was awarded the E.P. Dutton Prize for Best Magazine Sportswriting in the Nation for his portrayal of young heavyweight boxing contender Cassius Clay (who changed his name shortly thereafter to Muhammad Ali). Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2004, Sports Illustrated selected Cope’s 1967 profile of Howard Cosell as one of the 50 best-written articles ever published in its magazine.
As accomplished as Cope was behind the typewriter, Steelers fans best remember him from his time in the broadcasting booth behind the microphone.
In 1968, Cope ventured into radio, voicing daily commentaries for WTAE radio. His distinctive, high-pitched, nasally voice and Pittsburgher accent caught the attention of listeners. Among those listeners were Rooney and other Steelers officials, who, in turn, brought Cope into the Steelers’ game-day radio broadcast booth.
Cope immediately endeared himself to Pittsburgh fans as a unique character. He often peppered his commentary with Yiddish expressions, and “Yoi!” became one of his trademark catchphrases, along with “Double Yoi!” and, on those truly extraordinary occasions, “Triple Yoi!”
Cope was also the creator of many a nickname for players, both Steelers and opposing players alike. Additionally, opposing teams weren’t immune from his sharp wit and tongue, with the Cincinnati “Bungles” being repeated by sportscasters to this day whenever the Cincinnati Bengals underperform.
While Cope’s 35-year broadcasting career would have made him a Pittsburgh-area legend in its own right, what really cemented his status was a bit of common household linen.
In the days leading up to a 1975 playoff game with the Baltimore Colts, Cope wanted to create a simple way to energize the Steelers’ fan base, particularly those who would be in attendance at Three Rivers. His idea was to use something everyone already had so as to not require any unnecessary spending. He settled on towels.
Specifically, yellow, gold or black dish towels. His thought was if fans didn’t have a dish towel in one of those colors, they could either go out and buy one or just dye one of the dish towels they likely had lying around the house.
Hence, the Terrible Towel was born. It proved to be incredibly popular right away—an immediate hit! It has persevered over the years, and today it might be the most iconic symbol of professional sports fandom around the globe. If you know a Steelers fan who doesn’t have at least one Terrible Towel, you now have an instant holiday gift idea.
In 1996, Cope, whose son was severely autistic, granted his commercial rights to the Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, an institution that provides service and care to those with intellectual and physical disabilities.
In the summer of 2005, Cope retired from broadcasting, citing ongoing health concerns. The Steelers have never replaced him, deciding instead to continue broadcasting with just a two-person broadcast team.
Myron Cope died of respiratory failure on February 27, 2008, at 79 years of age. He is remembered as a one-of-a-kind Pittsburgher personality and a local treasure.