PITTSBURGH - Myron Cope spoke in a language and with a voice never before heard in a broadcast booth, yet a loving Pittsburgh understood him perfectly during an unprecedented 35 years as a Steelers announcer.
The screechy-voiced Mr. Cope, a writer by trade and an announcer by accident whose colorful catch phrases and twirling Terrible Towel became nationally known symbols of the Steelers, died Feb. 27 at 79.
Mr. Cope died at a nursing home in Mount Lebanon, said Joe Gordon, a former Steelers executive and a longtime friend. Mr. Cope had been treated for respiratory problems and heart failure.
Mr. Cope's tenure, from 1970-2004, as the color analyst on the Steelers' radio network is the longest in National Football League history for a broadcaster with a single team and led to his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005.
"His memorable voice and unique broadcasting style became synonymous with Steelers football," Art Rooney II, team president, said. "They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and no Pittsburgh broadcaster was impersonated more than Myron."
One of Pittsburgh's most colorful personalities, Mr. Cope was best known beyond the city's three rivers for the yellow cloth twirled by fans as a good luck charm at Steelers games.
The Terrible Towel is one of the best known fan symbols of any major professional sports team, has raised millions of dollars for charity, and is displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Even after retiring in 2005, Mr. Cope continued to appear in numerous radio, television, and print ads, emblematic of a local popularity that sometimes surpassed that of the stars he covered.
Team officials marveled how Mr. Cope received more attention than the players or coaches when the Steelers checked into hotels, accompanied by crowds of fans so large that security guards were needed in every city.
"It is a very sad day, but Myron lived every day to make people happy, to use his great sense of humor to dissect the various issues of the sporting world. . . . He's a legend," said Andy Russell, former Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker.
Mr. Cope did not become a football announcer until age 40; he spent the first half of his career as a sportswriter. He was hired by the Steelers in 1970, several years after he began doing sports commentary on the whim of WTAE-TV's program director, Don Shafer, mostly to help increase attention when the Steelers moved into Three Rivers Stadium.
Coincidentally, a pair of rookies, Mr. Cope and a quarterback named Terry Bradshaw, made their Steelers debuts during the team's first regular season game at Three Rivers on Sept. 20, 1970.