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The Big Picture: Colorful analyst Myron Cope remembers stadium's top moments

Thursday, December 14, 2000

For 30 years, Three Rivers Stadium and the Steelers Nation resonated with Myron Cope's warble -- once described by then-Dallas receiver and ex-Pittster Billy Davis as an anal voice, though I'm not sure if he meant nasal. Cope and his chalkboard opera of a throat are as much constants in the old bowl as the Rooneys, dee-fense and trap plays.

Who better to usher in this final football weekend at the confluence than the longtime radio colorful commentator?

Herewith, in chronological order, Cope's most memorable moments right here in Mahrn City:

Oct. 11, 1970: First Three Rivers victory, against Buffalo.

Nov. 2, 1970: First "Monday Night Football" game and victory at Three Rivers, against Cincinnati.

Nov. 7, 1971: First Three Rivers victory against Cleveland.

Nov. 26, 1972: Important victory against Minnesota on way to first AFC Central Division title.

Dec. 23, 1972: The Immaculate Reception. "No. 1 on the memory list." He had a great view from end zone, having left broadcast booth with two minutes left, sensing an imminent loss. "I saw the catch perfectly. He's coming at an angle, straight to where I was. I was yelling, 'Come on, Franco.' In some of the films, you can see a short guy with a bald spot in a trenchcoat. That's me."

Dec. 31, 1972: Miami's Larry Seiple ran a fake punt, and unbeaten Dolphins advanced to Super Bowl.

1970-73: He doesn't quite remember the exact game, but he'll never forget this moment. Linebacker Henry Davis smashed through opponent's facemask with a straight right punch. "Absolutely KO'd this guy. How he got his fist through that facemask, I'll never know. I don't remember the guy's name." That's OK; that guy probably doesn't remember, either.

Sometime in 1973-74: "The Steelers crowd invented 'Dee-fense, Dee-fense.' I will swear that cheer originated at Three Rivers, 'cause I never heard it anywhere else before."

Dec. 22, 1974: Playoff victory against O.J. Simpson and Buffalo, on way to their first Super Bowl.

Dec. 27, 1975: The debut of the most famous piece of laundry in Pittsburgh, if not sporting North America. In playoff defeat of Baltimore, Andy Russell recovered a fumble and wound up rumbling 93 yards for a touchdown, Terry Bradshaw made speedy recovery to health, and "Fast Frankie" Lewis snagged one-handed reception off bullet pass in rain. Cope referred to verse he received from fan: "He ran 93 like a bat out of hell, and no one could see how he rambled so well. "T'was easy,' said Andy, and he flashed a crooked smile, 'I was snapped on the fanny by the Terrible Towel.' "

Jan. 4, 1976: "Three Rivers grounds crew accused of icing the sidelines to stop Oakland Raiders star receivers Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch in playoff game. Oakland head coach John Madden went crazy." Steelers won.

1977-81: Again, he doesn't quite remember the exact game, but it was the most amazing fumble recovery. Linebacker and special-teams ace Dennis "Dirt" Winston "dove like an Olympic diver, then burrowed underneath a tremendous pile like a mole, and came out with the ball. Must have gone underground."

Jan. 7, 1979: The Ice Bowl AFC championship game with Houston. A storm caused a Terrible Towel to freeze onto a fishing line in front of the radio booth, whose roof also leaked freezing rain. Cope was unaffected, but play-by-play announcer Jack Fleming sat there with an umbrella and an obstructed view. "You should have seen Fleming. He was purple, he was so mad."

Dec. 30, 1979: Don Shula's worst playoff defeat, a 34-14 Miami loss.

Jan. 6, 1980: Mike Renfro's controversial non-catch in Houston's AFC championship game loss.

1974-82: Again, he doesn't quite remember the exact game, but it was the most astounding reception. Lynn Swann was 1 yard out of bounds, caught the pass and contorted his body to get his feet in bounds. "Everybody on the Steelers bench, their jaws just dropped. The players still talk about this."

Jan. 9, 1983: Playoff game with San Diego. "The Towel was working terrifically that day." San Diego kick returner dropped first two kickoffs. Terry Bradshaw hardly missed a pass among his first 20 attempts. But he threw fatal interception in the end, and the Chargers won. "One of the most exciting games ever at Three Rivers."

Sept. 4, 1983: John Elway's first game in NFL. He lined up under guard.

Oct. 5, 1986: Cleveland's first Three Rivers victory after 0-16 skid that caused Brownies to even try hiring witch doctor.

Sept. 13, 1987: Hall of Fame ring presentation to Joe Greene, first of Super Steelers to get enshrined in Hall of Fame. Steelers beat 49ers that day.

Sometime around 1990: "I walked down the tunnel to the field. The black-and-gold stripe that went down the wall was gone, and it was painted silver and blue -- the exact colors of the Dallas Cryboys. So I found out the stadium management hired a firm to color-code the stadium. I called the television station [WTAE, for whom he did commentaries]: 'Get me a cameraman down here.' I think in less than a week, it returned to black and gold."

Nov. 4, 1990: Dedication of Art Rooney statue. Steelers beat Atlanta.

Dec. 9, 1990: Chuck Noll's 200th victory, against New England.

Sept. 13, 1992: Bill Cowher's first victory at Three Rivers, against Jets.

Jan. 7, 1995: First playoff game against Cleveland, a Steelers rout.

Jan. 15, 1995: AFC championship game loss to San Diego.

Jan. 14, 1996: Neil O'Donnell's deep pass to Ernie Mills at Indianapolis 1 arranged AFC championship-winning touchdown and a fifth Super Bowl trip.

Same: "Can't remember the name of the Steeler who broke up Indianapolis' last-ditch pass. ... Yes, I'm getting senile." Yoi. It was Randy Fuller, and I had to look up his first name.

Jan. 11, 1997: AFC championship-game loss to Denver. "All week, the story was that it might be John Elway's last chance to get to the Super Bowl and win one. And I will swear the officials took him to the Super Bowl. They called two interference penalties. ... that were bad calls and led to scores."

Dec. 3, 2000: Mark Bruener bull-riding Oakland's Calvin Branch into end zone for winning touchdown against Oakland. "I called it the Bruener Rodeo."

"Three Rivers in the '70s was unlike any other stadium. It had such an atmosphere. Once the Steelers got going, these fan clubs started. Even the backups had fan clubs. There were banners all over for everybody: Dobre Shanka for Good Ham ... There were Gerela's Gorillas ... Franco's Italian Army. Then you had the stadium filled with Terrible Towels waving. You had no other stadium that could match it.

"But time marches on."

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