CHICAGO — Legendary Chicago sportscaster Chet Coppock died Wednesday from injuries he sustained in a car accident, his family confirms on social media.
"His passing is untimely, unexpected and painfully sad, but all we can do at this time is remember how lucky we were to have such a unique and creative trailblazer help shape into the adults we know he was so incredibly proud of," Lyndsey Coppock said in a Facebook post.
Coppock, 70, was the passenger in a Lexus outside Hilton Head Island, S.C. the afternoon of April 6 when the car crossed the center line and struck a Range Rover head-on. Police said it was raining at the time, and the driver of the Lexus, 50-year-old Louise Williams, was charged for driving too fast for road conditions. Coppock died of his injuries on April 17.
The seeds of Coppock's spectacular career may have been planted on home plate at Wrigley Field, when he met WGN's Jack Brickhouse as a child. He was said to have been so impressed with the icon that he decided right there to be a sportscaster.
A native of Northfield and graduate of New Trier High School and Columbia College, Coppock went on to work as a top sports anchor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 in the 1980s before segueing to radio, where he became known as the "Godfather of Sports Talk Radio."
After taking to the airwaves, Coppock practically invented sports talk radio as we know it. Among his famous phrases spoken to radio callers was, "your dime, your dance floor."
The 70-year-old was a fixture on the Chicago sports scene for decades after. He interviewed nearly every important sports figure, from Ditka to Dimaggio and Magic to Michael. His colorful career also included stints as an announcer for the Roller Derby and World Wrestling Federation.
Coppock also served as a mentor to many of today’s well-known broadcasting figures, including ESPN Radio and NBC Sports Chicago host Dave Kaplan.
“He mentored me, and when some job opened up as sports radio just started to flourish, he was my biggest backer, so the next thing you know, I end up at WGN Radio for 21 years,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan said Coppock embraced his identity as a showman and Chicago celebrity.
“He would say, as they walked into a stadium, and somebody would yell his name, 'you don’t say hi to the individual, you say hi to the whole section.' That was Chet. He was larger than life," Kaplan said.
He was influential and inimitable, charismatic and controversial. Over a half a century, he was responsible for a prolific output in broadcast and print journalism. He was the author of five books, including two memoirs and a biography of under-appreciated Bears linebacker Doug Buffone.
He was a connoisseur of cigars and clothes, often spotted his loud sweaters, and trademark suspenders and famous fur coat.
As a sportscaster, he would tell you his honest analysis, even if it wasn’t what Chicago fans wanted to hear. Those who know him say there may never be another like him, a pioneer and a Chicago legend.
“Chet Coppock was it, there was no sports talk radio, And every night it was appointment listening," Kaplan said. "I’ll never forget those days and he will be sorely missed.”
Coppock attended every Bears home opener for 68 years, and the team will hold a seat open him this year as a tribute.