Posted on July 13, 2012 - by ChuckFinder
Lunch was only a bowl of tortilla soup for me, a bowl of vegetable and a fancy grilled-cheese sammich plus a brew for him.
But it wasn’t about the food.
The most delectable fare was Bill Hillgrove spinning yarns of Myron Cope.
The joy of yoi. Which would make a wonderful title for a chapter on Cope. Yes, the book had to include a chapter on Cope. The only problem was trying to keep it shorter than Chuck Noll’s chapter or any of the Hall of Fame players. After all, the little man grew into such tall tales. Even Mike Wagner had a good Cope story to tell.
Of course, I’d lunch with Billy even if the discussion topic was the Venezuelan economy. The man can entertain. But his Cope stories, because he lived them for four decades, came from the heart. (And, truth be told, it was the first interview in my 30-plus years of writing that I ever broke out a computer for a one-on-one — as I told Hillgrove, I wanted to get down his words immediately and not miss a letter.)
Hillgrove was a WTAE radio and TV staple when the station went out and hired this free-lance magazine writer — one of Pittsburgh’s greatest writers in history. But with that voice?
The electronic media guy knew all about Cope’s wit and savvy and ability to charm the athletes and coaches. But you get to know a fella even better when you sit next to him for hours on end and improvise, relate drama, broadcast football.
“I was priviledged,” Hillgrove began. He corrected himself. “I was blessed to work with him for 11 years. But people forget the 12th. Johnny Sauer got sick in 1983 [with a heart problem], and I had the joy of working with Cope that [Pitt football] season. He’d call the house: ‘Rose, it’s Myron.’ She’d look at me like: I know it’s Myron, you don’t have to identify yourself. And if something was wrong with your family or something, he was the first to call.”
* Working alongside Cope, already an AM talk-show and TV newscast-commentary star, “That’s when I realized I was dealing with an instant lexicon. [Pitt safety] Tommy Flynn returned a punt for a touchdown against Louisivlle. He went [WRITER'S NOTE: in perfect Cope imitation] ‘Zoo-ee, he went up that sidelines.’ I went, ‘Zoo-ee?’ ‘I can make up words.’ ”
* “His daughter [Elizabeth] bought him a computer. Apparently, whoever came out to his house was ordered: ‘Don’t plug that into the wall. I don’t want that internet. I just want to type on it.’ That lasted half a day. Then he was back to his old typewriter. He marveled at technology. But he didn’t understand it.”
* “In those days, they would put Steeler games on Voice of America overseas. We got a note once: The Russians were jamming the signal. When they heard Cope’s voice, they shut off the jamming signal – they wanted to hear his voice. They couldn’t believe a voice like that was on the radio.”
Let’s save some for the book.
Next “The Steelers Encyclopedia” blog: Friday, July 2o