We welcome back in this issue a byline not seen in SI for some time. With his piece on golf's National Team Championship (page 22), Myron Cope makes his first appearance in these pages since the same event last year. His protracted absence was nothing planned. Cope simply has been increasingly busy with a broadcasting career that keeps pushing out other things.
To fully appreciate his happy predicament, it is necessary to understand the peculiar nature of Cope's turf, western Pennsylvania. It is a kind of Ruhr Valley of American sport, having produced such superstars as Stan Musial, Arnold Palmer and Joe Namath. Thus, a sports broadcaster in a place like WTAE in Pittsburgh operates with a fairly high profile. Cope especially.
His beginnings as a broadcaster were inauspicious enough. When first asked to do a daily five-minute radio show, Cope thought someone was kidding. "I've heard my voice on tape, and it's certainly no radio voice," he told the man from WTAE. "That's O.K.," said the program exec, "we think we foresee a trend toward obnoxious voices."
The show caught on, and pretty soon Cope was doing two shows a day, then three. Next he added three-a-week commentaries on WTAE-TV. Then his radio show was syndicated over a network of 30 stations. Finally, two years ago he was hired as the radio color man for the Steelers.
Cope soon became a household word in Pittsburgh. The word was often unprintable by some standards, but thanks to a functioning sense of humor and a hard head, Cope copes. Three anecdotes illuminate this point.
1) Last October, a bunch of playful Steelers decided to give Linebacker Andy Russell Myron Cope for his birthday. So they packaged the 5'5" Cope into a box and presented it to Russell. "My comments on the Steelers are such," reasons Cope, "that giving Andy me for his birthday was no doubt a sarcastic gesture."
2) In 1971 Cope took public issue with the Associated Press poll that named Arnold Palmer athlete of the decade. Shortly afterward, Palmer spotted high-handicapper Cope about to tee off at Laurel Valley. "Now we'll see what an athlete looks like," Palmer announced volubly as Cope addressed the ball. The heckling continued all the way through his back-swing, and Cope remembers praying for a good drive. Swoosh...crack!! Cope's ball sailed straight down the middle about 210 yards. "I held my follow-through for a moment," he recalls, "and without even favoring Palmer with a glance I yelled, 'Stick that one in your ear, Palmer!' "
3) On a trip to Atlanta, Cope was spotted in a hotel phone booth by a 220-pound Pirate ballplayer. "He apparently decided it would be good to spare the public the Myron Cope show. He thereupon reached into the booth, seized me by the throat and began pounding my head against the wall. The moral is that if you are going to fight a 220-pound ballplayer in a phone booth, it is better not to be the first one into the booth."
It would also be better—for our readers—not to have to wait so long between SI bylines, Myron.
ARNOLD PALMER COPING WITH COPE