Dan Joseph profiles a Pittsburgh icon

Cover of the Myron Cope book, Behind the YoiLike most Pittsburghers of 40 years ago, Dan Joseph was familiar with Myron Cope through radio and television. However, Joseph recalls the first time he really came to appreciate Cope: “I was in the Mt. Lebanon Library. I was 15, and I picked up this book on old-time football players [The Game That Was]. I started reading it and I was fascinated, and at some point I looked at the spine and it said the author was Myron Cope. I didn’t realize it until then, but Myron was a big-time sportswriter before becoming the Steelers broadcaster.”

The fascination continued, even though Joseph never met Cope, despite the fact that they both lived in Mt. Lebanon for a while. Joseph grew up on Lakemont Drive, where his parents still live, and Cope moved from Upper St. Clair to the Woodridge community after his wife died.

Nevertheless, Joseph has written a book about the Pittsburgh icon titled, Behind the Yoi: The Life of Myron Cope, Legendary Pittsburgh Steeler Broadcaster. The idea began to germinate when Joseph learned that his wife was friends with a friend of Elizabeth Cope, Myron’s daughter. “I learned through the friend that Elizabeth had all these tapes and papers and correspondence—Myron apparently saved a lot of things throughout his career. She always thought she might want to do something
with them.”

Through this friend, Elizabeth learned Joseph was an author, and he explained, “I called her up and said, ‘I was a fan of Myron, I’d like to examine his life, learn more about what made him tick.’ We just started talking and it kind of fell together after a while.”

Joseph’s book is a biography that tells how Cope struggled growing up in Squirrel Hill when his dad’s business took a hit from the Depression. “At an early age, to make money, he worked as a vendor at Forbes Field during Pirates games selling hot dogs. You can probably imagine that voice calling out ‘Get your hot dogs here!'” Joseph said with a chuckle. Despite referring to him in the title as the legendary Steeler broadcaster, Joseph said, “That was only a fraction of who he was.”

Cope was a prolific writer for such illustrious magazines as Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post and Sports Illustrated. “He didn’t want to go into broadcasting, but a radio station called and asked, ‘do you want to do commentaries for us?’ He wasn’t planning to do that, he was very happy, very successful as a writer. He kind of did it as a lark and it took off like crazy.” Joseph commented that Cope probably would have continued with writing had he not been so successful with broadcasting, which ate up all of his time.

Cope created the Terrible Towel, and the money from the towel supports the Allegheny Valley School, a private, nonprofit organization that provides services to individuals with disabilities. Cope had a son, Danny, now 56, who was born with brain damage and still lives at the school. In the 1990s, Cope signed all Terrible Towel royalties to the school to make sure it had the funding needed to keep it in operation.

Joseph said that what makes the book even more special is that Elizabeth Cope also contributed a few chapters, telling what it was like to grow up in an atmosphere with her celebrated father. “She hated it,” Joseph said. “It was hard going anywhere as a kid, because people would bother her dad, or her brother would make a scene. She writes about that, and about her relationship with her dad during his declining years. He had a lot of health problems, but she maintained a loving relationship with him.”

Joseph has written three previous books—one about a terrorist group in Somalia, the product of his work on the Africa desk for Voice of America in Washington, D.C., and two on former baseball players, Lou Gehrig and Pete Rieser. Despite two of the books centering on sports, Joseph said this one was different. “The fact that it was a Pittsburgh book, I could invest myself and my own history into the book, and it means a bit more to me than the others. I’m proud of the final product.”

Behind the Yoi examines the breadth and depth of Cope’s career, and Joseph describes how he not only succeeded at whatever he did, but also seemed to strike a chord with everybody. “In every way, he was unforgettable.”

Behind the Yoi is available for purchase on Amazon, and will be in Barnes & Noble in September.