"Bye, Now"

Like his screeching voice over the airways, news about Myron Cope's death Wednesday morning traveled far and wide and hit Pittsburgh Steelers and Panthers fans as hard as a Jack Lambert shot on a running back.

Terrible Towels, Cope's creation in 1975 to spur the Steelers to victory, will be waved at half-staff by fans around the world to honor Cope, 79. And the University of Pittsburgh, where Cope was a graduate in 1951, paid homage to the broadcasting icon by asking fans to bring Terrible Towels to the Panthers basketball game with Cincinnati Wednesday night,

Cope retired from broadcasting Steelers games after 35 years following the 2004 season due to failing health, but he never missed a game listening to former partners Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin on the radio and turning down the sound on his television. Cope and Hillgrove, who worked 11 years on Steelers broadcasts, spent the 1983 season announcing Pitt football.

"Johnny Sauer wasn't medically cleared, and the radio station told Myron that he had to do it,'' Hillgrove recalled. "Myron loved Pitt, but he had a lot on his plate with the Steelers, his radio show and the commentaries and didn't believe he could do it. The station insisted, and we did the entire 1983 season.''

Cope was doing Steelers games with Jack Fleming back then, and he wanted assurances that he would be able to make all those games after Pitt played. Hillgrove remembered another instance when Cope needed to make a quick exit.

"We played at Maryland, and I think it was in late September (24),'' Hillgrove said. "He needed to be at a wedding reception that night at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier and asked for a private plane to fly him from College Park, Md. to Ligonier. He left with about four minutes to go. It was a close game, but Pitt lost (13-7) on a fumble going in (for a touchdown).''

Cope was taken to a grass strip in College Park, Md., and a pilot there with a leather helmet got him aboard the plane. When they arrived at the Latrobe airport, they couldn't land because there was air show going on with bombers and fighters and stunt pilots. Cope told the pilot to tell the tower that he had a VIP on board. When the pilot identified the VIP as Myron Cope, after about 20 seconds silence, the tower came back with a message.

"I need four for the Cleveland game,'' Hillgrove laughed. "Everybody stopped after that, and the plane was allowed to land. Cope got to the reception on time, and there were no other problems that season.''

There certainly weren't any issues between the two during Steelers games.

"I felt like Matt Cavanaugh pitching the ball to Tony Dorsett,'' Hillgrove said. "You knew something good was going to happen every time. Whatever you set him up with, he would run with it. He was totally professional.''

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney said the entire Steelers organization was deeply saddened to learn about Cope's death.

"Myron touched millions of people throughout his life, first as a tremendous sportswriter and then as a Hall of Fame broadcaster,'' Rooney said. "Myron was also a very close friend. His contributions and dedication to Steelers football were incredible. His creation of The Terrible Towel™ has developed into a worldwide symbol that is synonymous with Steelers football.

"He also helped immortalize the most famous play in NFL history when he popularized the term Immaculate Reception. Myron was a very passionate person who truly cared about others and dedicated much of his personal time to help numerous charities. Our prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the entire Cope family. Myron will remain in our thoughts and will forever be a member of the Steelers family.''

Steelers President Art Rooney II noted that Cope played an important part in the Steelers game-day experience.

"Myron touched the hearts of Steelers fans for 35 years and became one of the true legends in broadcasting history,'' Rooney II said. "His memorable voice and unique broadcasting style became synonymous with Steelers football. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery and no Pittsburgh broadcaster was impersonated more than Myron.

"We have lost a great friend in Myron Cope, but history will remember him as one of the great sportscasters of any era. Our prayers go out to the entire Cope family. Though he can never be replaced, his impact will continue to live strong at every Steelers game.''

Cope was in declining health even before his 2005 retirement, but his sayings are still going strong.

So, when you raise a "toddy'' with a friend, toast Cope with a "double yoi,'' and I'm sure that will be "okle-dokle'' with him.

Bye, now.

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