Steelers Hall of Fame Broadcaster Invented the Terrible Towel™,
Helped Popularize the Term "Immaculate Reception"
Myron Cope, a hall of fame broadcaster who spent more than three decades as the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has died after battling various health issues in recent months. He was 79.
Mr. Cope served as a color analyst for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 35 years (1970-2004) and became the first pro football broadcaster to be elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005. Only two days prior to the announcement of his election to the National Radio Hall, Mr. Cope was presented the Pete Rozelle Radio and Television Award at the 2005 Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton, Ohio.
"Myron contributed so much to the Steelers and our fans over the years, that he cemented a place in broadcasting history that is reserved for only the best in the business," said Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney.
Mr. Cope's professional career dated back to 1951 and included stints as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer (principally for
Mr. Cope was perhaps best known as the creator of the The Terrible Towel™ in December, 1975. In 1996 he contributed his ownership of The Terrible Towel™
Valley School, an institution for the profoundly mentally and physically disabled. It was on Mr. Cope's radio show that the words "Immaculate Reception" became a household term to describe the game-winning play in the Steelers' 1972 AFC Divisional playoff victory against the Oakland Raiders.
"Myron's legacy will continue to live on at every Steelers game in the form of The Terrible Towel™," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "But that is just one of many examples of the ways in which Myron left a lasting impression on everyone he met."
Mr. Cope served for many years on the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Chapter of The Autism Society of America and the highly successful Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix charity auto races, of which he was a co-founder. He also served on the Tournament Committee of the Myron Cope/Foge Fazio Golf Tournament for Autistic Children.
Mr. Cope entered broadcasting by chance in 1968 when WTAE-Radio invited him to air a daily morning sports commentary from his home (or hotel room when traveling on writing assignments). In 1973, he agreed to take over a failing evening talk show, thereby expanding his radio duties that, together with his TV work, forced him for lack of time to virtually abandon his writing career. He soon after resigned from
Sports Illustrated* where, along with one other writer, George Plimpton, he held the title of Special Contributor.
In 1970 Mr. Cope became radio color analyst for Steelers games, first broadcasting them for flagship station WTAE-Radio and then, in 1999, following the Steelers to new flagship station WDVE-FM. He announced his retirement from the booth on June 21, 2005.
Previously, in April, 1995, Mr. Cope had cut back his broadcast duties, discontinuing his role of sports commentator for WTAE-TV and WTAE-Radio, as well as his role conducting an evening sports talk show for WTAE-Radio. His talk show aired almost 22 years, perennially rated No. 1 in its time slot in all age demographics except children eight to 12 years.
The Pro-Football Hall of Fame in 1983 appointed Mr. Cope to its Board of Selectors, a body charged with electing NFL stars to the Hall. At the time, that group of thirty-some journalists included no other broadcaster. Mr. Cope served 10 years on the Board before resigning.
Born in Pittsburgh on January 23, 1929, Mr. Cope lived his entire life in Pittsburgh, except for seven months of 1951 when he moved to Erie, Pennsylvania to take his first job out of college at
The Erie Times*.
Mr. Cope was married to the late Mildred Lindberg Cope of Charleston, West Virginia. He is survived by two children, Daniel Lawrence and Elizabeth A. Cope. A daughter, Martha Ann, is deceased.