While The Terrible Towel was the first rally towel, it is not a traditional rally towel. Whereas most rally towels are handed out for free at games, The Terrible Towel has always been sold since it’s initial licensing and merchandising
Legendary Pittsburgh Pirates KDKA broadcaster Bob Prince created The Green Weenie (1966) and Babushka Power (1975) to get fans more interested and involved in the games. Both gimmicks made the fans feel like they were part of the team’s success, and as a result, the gimmicks were highly successful and popular. In mid-December 1975, WTAE general manager Ted Atkins called Myron Cope into his office
While Myron Cope was unique in his own right, there is no doubt the he was heavily influenced by the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince. Prince was one of baseball’s best known play-by-play broadcasters and spent 28 seasons with Pirates. He was hired in 1948 to replace Jack Craddock and do play-by-play alongside Rosey Rowswell, and then fired at the conclusion of the 1975 season. He had a distinct voice, brash style and rapid fire delivery, which earned him the nickname “The Gunner”. He also handed out his fair share of nicknames to Pirate players, and was known for his colorful metaphors and equally colorful sports jackets. Prince was an unabashed “homer”, and his firing in 1975 led to disaffection amongst the Pirates fanbase which took many years to repair. Prince was extremely charitable and was a cofounder of the Allegheny Valley School and major fundraiser for the school, reportedly raising upwards of $4 million. He recommended the school to Myron Cope for his son Danny, and got Cope involved in fundraising for the school as well. Cope would eventually turnover the trademark of The Terrible Towel to the Allegheny Valley School, and to date the towel has raised an additional $5 million for the school.
In 1968, 39 year-old Myron Cope was enjoying a successful career as a professional freelance sports journalist and had a modest level of financial security thanks to his contract with Sports Illustrated. He just had his first child, Danny, with his wife Mildred. And he was about to receive the first of several phone calls that would change his life. On a January morning in 1968, Cope received a call from publicity director Bernie Armstrong Jr. at Pittsburgh radio station WTAE 1250AM. The station was purely a music and news station, but was trying to develop a sports image. Cope was a local guy with national credentials, and he could bring instantaneous credibility to the sports broadcasts. WTAE wanted him to do a couple of short five-minute commentaries each weekday morning.
The first half of the Steelers existence should be nicknamed “The Forgettable Forty.” From 1933 to 1972 the Steelers had a combined record of 184 wins – 287 losses – 18 ties (winning percentage of .376). They only had 9 winning seasons in their first forty years. In fact, they had more head coaches during this time (14) than they did winning seasons. During this span, the Steelers had just 2 playoff appearances (1947 and 1972…they also appeared in the 1962 Playoff Bowl against the Lions). Their best season during this span was 1972 when they went 11-3 and won their first playoff game in franchise history when they defeated the Raiders on Franco Harris
Since the Steelers inaugural season in 1933, the team has had a steady presence on radio. After all, Pittsburgh was the birthplace of broadcast radio. In October 1919, Frank Conrad, a Westinghouse electrical engineer operating a radio station (8XK) from his garage, captivated amateur radio enthusiasts when he first broadcast music from his record collection over radio. Conrad’s musical broadcasts became so popular that in September 1920 local Pittsburgh department store Horne’s installed
Anyone in the greater Pittsburgh area who followed the Steelers ascension out of four decades of losing starting in 1972 to unparalleled greatness is familiar with Steelers’ color analyst Myron Cope. And like me, if you missed the Super Steelers dynasty of the 1970s and grew up on the so-so Steelers of the 1980s
Before I go into detail on the late, great Myron Cope, it’s important to illustrate the dichotomy of the backdrop that exists between the renaissance Pittsburgh is experiencing today, and the depression era Pittsburgh of the 1970s and 1980s. The Steelers ascension from a 40-year perennial loser to the most successful franchise since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger, came at the exact time that the city of Pittsburgh was beginning to enter the early stages of a severe
Like anyone born in Western Pennsylvania during the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s, I was born with the innate hereditary trait of loving anything that was black & gold….especially the Pittsburgh Steelers.