By Alby Oxenreiter
It was a cold December night in 1982, and as I hurried through the lobby of WTAE-TV, where I was working as a volunteer intern, I almost knocked over a middle-aged man who I immediately recognized as a local sports celebrity and a national media legend. It was the one-and-only Beano Cook. He had just finished taping a radio segment, and was waiting rather impatiently for a cab. Beano already knew what I would soon find out - that I was his cab. In essence, Beano ordered me to give him a lift to his downtown apartment. I never thought twice about it and was happy to oblige. Beano told me he didn't have a car, and within moments, he explained something else-that he didn't own "the world's three most expensive things, in reverse order: car...wife...ex-wife."
About five years later, after I had begun to learn my craft in three smaller television markets, I returned to that same building, and there was Beano again. He had kept tabs on my career, and said he was delighted to see me back in my hometown. In retrospect, I think he was happy just to have his driver back! Our friendship matured, and I came to realize what so many people already knew about Beano: He was a simple man with a complicated personality, a lonely person who enjoyed hundreds of meaningful friendships.
His depth of knowledge was remarkable. He was both smart and wise, quick-witted and opinionated, funny and blunt, and above all else, unique. He was a true original, and his riveting personality left you wanting more.
In the early '90s, as the Penguins won two Stanley Cups, Beano was in full stride, holding court at each and every pregame meal at the Civic Arena. Some people joked that he was there for the free food, but anyone who really knew Beano knew that he was there for something else. He craved the companionship. He loved the conversation.
After the pregame food had been eaten, and as the games were about to start, media members would stand up and begin the trek to the press box. He would grab me by the arm and order me back to my seat. "Forget the game," he'd say, "the conversation is what you'll remember." Beano was so right. We talked almost daily. I'd call him, or more often than not, he'd call me. If I wasn't at home, he was just as happy to talk to my wife, interrogating her on that week's grocery bill.
I'll finish with this: Even after I heard the news that Beano had died, I called his home phone number. Doing what I had done a thousand times before was my way of remembering a great and loyal friend, and one of the truest characters of my life. The phone kept ringing, and in my mind, I heard his voice, "Lieutenant Columbo..." Beano had no other family-no brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or cousins. What he did have were great friends. More friends than he could count. I was honored to be counted among them.
By Chuck Finder
Un-buh-LEAF-uh-bull that these fingers typed this line about Beano Cook almost a decade ago, but. . . :
It's hard to say what inscription will be placed on his tombstone -- in another two or three decades, of course -- but it surely won't read: Wish I'd made more people laugh about football.
Carroll Hoff Cook was called by The Maker five weeks into this football fall, at age 81.
Wish we'd made more time with him.
Beano was to college football what were Bob Hope's All-America teams and ESPN's boom: Each brought a smile to College Football America's face and a glow to its TVs.
He was the publicist and the Pope, the purveyor and the unprecedented - a less-than-blow-dry type and more than trailblazer who was neither ex-player nor ex-coach behind the football studio desk. He was history. He was possessed of such a photographic memory of college football, you'd have thought he attended each game from the Princeton-Rutgers start: scores, players, plays, stadia, weather, import, you name it. He was a history lover who often dropped presidents or generals or battlefield metaphors into his sports humor. They all were his passions, his religious affiliations, his Beano DNA. And, amidst the levity, he would without fail ask about you and yours.
As E.J. Borghetti of Pitt noted: The man never married, but he was kin to hundreds. His family was extended, indeed. No obituary could've properly listed all of his true survivors.
"Five-oh, McGarrett." "Lt. Columbo, homicide." He never bought an answering machine. Never owned a computer -- another feat of which he was excruciatingly proud to remind you. By answering the phone that way, he could enjoy launching every conversation with a joke.
Beano came from all over the sports map. From Pitt sports information director to Pittsburgh sports-magazine founder to ABC and CBS. From St. Petersburg Times columnist to Miami Dolphins publicist to Penguins front-office type to ABC studio analyst, thanks to the inimitable Roone Arledge. In 1985, after Penn State beat Temple by just 27-25 in their second game of the season, Beano went on ABC and pronounced that the Nittany Lions would play for the national championship. Joe Paterno's response when I asked him about it the next day: "Beano never used to drink." Beano was soberingly correct; the Nits played for it in 1985 and 1986, winning the latter.
Beano joined ESPN in 1986 over a CNN offer primarily because Hartford rather than Atlanta was the easier airport to maneuver for a man who hated to fly. He wore no pretension. He wore no filter. He wore rumpled suits or, for a short time, gag outfits. He did stand-ups and sit downs. He did pieces and predictions. Then his work merely evolved into proclamations by the Pope.
"You get to three score and ten, every day after that is a bonus," Beano said upon turning 70. "I've lasted 20 years [in TV], which is amazing." First came Howard Cosell in the booth, then Carroll Hoff Cook in the studio. "Now," he said, "there are 8 million guys like us."
No, Beano, there will never be anybody else like you.
By Ivan Maisel, re-posted with permission from ESPN.com
Beano and I always ended our podcast with the quip, "Well, we fooled 'em again." And as I sit here, stunned and saddened, I have to say that Beano fooled me. He has been telling me for years that he focused every offseason on living until the start of football season. Once the games began, he knew he would never die, because he would stay alive long enough to find out who would be No. 1.
I suppose God needed to know who won the Northwestern-Minnesota game in 1940.
A few journalistic rules are being broken here. Let me do it the right way: ESPN college football analyst Beano Cook died overnight at age 81. For those of you who don't know, Beano and I have done the ESPNU College Football Podcast together for the last six years. When he and I began podcasting, other people hosted the podcast on other days. But he and I did so well together that I took over as host of all the shows.
That's one of the many things for which I have Beano to thank.
Beano and I spoke twice a week for the last six years: once on the day before every podcast, when we would discuss the topics, and then the podcast itself. Occasionally, what we discussed on the day before made it to the podcast itself. More often, we would digress on one tangent or another that may or may not have something to do with college football.
It might be a story about how he hitchhiked from Providence, where he was a student at Brown, to see Army play Navy in Philadelphia. It might be about why Stanford and Arkansas opened the 1970 season against each other. It might be about my children.
You see, Beano may have been an expert on the history of college football from 1930 to 1990, but he showed his real expertise in friendship. He collected friends like some people collect stamps. He didn't marry -- even though he might have given up college football for Stefanie Powers, the 1980s television star -- and never had children.
But Beano cared about the people around him. He asked questions. I am not the only one at ESPN who had that kind of relationship with him. Mel Kiper Jr. did. Howie Schwab did. I am sure there are others.
He always asked me what other writers had been at the game I covered the previous Saturday. "I don't miss the games," he said. "I miss the hanging out."
There was an old-school quality in the way he related to people. Having grown up an Irish Catholic in Pittsburgh, an ethnic town, he attributed personality traits to ancestry in a way that 21st-century America no longer does. Political correctness may be at play, or the melting pot. But Beano got a kick out of the fact that a Southern Jewish guy like me married an Irish Catholic girl.
Anyway, on our day-before discussions, we would talk for anywhere from 12 to 45 minutes. Yes, I use "we" in the loosest of terms. The podcast served as the perfect vehicle for Beano. It is an open-ended conversation.
But I enjoyed listening to Beano as much as he enjoyed being listened to. Trying to interrupt Beano was like trying to catch the blade of a ceiling fan with your bare hand. You didn't get hurt, but the fan just kept going.
Toward the end of just about every call, he would say, "I've bored you enough. We'll talk tomorrow. Of all the things I've done at ESPN, this is my favorite."
More and more often, Beano said to me on those preparatory calls, "So you'll call tomorrow and if I'm alive, I'll answer and we'll do the show."
"If I'm alive," I chimed in one day in June, "I will call you."
Beano didn't miss a beat.
"If you have to bet," he said, referring to one of us not being alive, "bet on me."
He wasn't being maudlin. As a man in his early 80s fighting diabetes and its related offshoots, he was just being matter-of-fact. My trying to dismiss his concern had more to say about me. I didn't want to think about losing him.
Beano had a lot of pride. When I covered Baylor at West Virginia two weeks ago, and had to fly to Pittsburgh to get to Morgantown, he wouldn't let me come see him. He remained delighted when I would call, which I didn't do enough.
The last time we spoke, he unnerved me. He said the doctor told him his recovery would be long and laborious.
"I'm struggling," he said. "It's like trying to score on Alabama on fourth down from the 4-yard-line."
Of course, Beano overlooked the fact that very few offenses could get to the 4-yard line against the Alabama defense in the first place.
I had a short bucket list of plans for me and Beano. I did sit down with him in the summer of 2011 with a video crew and interviewed him about his life in college football. I wanted to go to a college football game with him. He refused to fly, of course. My editors and I tried to figure out a way around that, but never did. I wanted to go to Pittsburgh and go to dinner with him, but I put that off, too. There always would be time for that.
Ernie Accorsi, the retired general manager of the New York Giants, may have been Beano's closest friend. He spoke with Beano on a daily basis. Ernie told me Thursday that Beano didn't feel up to watching games last Saturday, but he wanted Ernie to call him with the scores. So Ernie called him regularly.
"Where have you been?" Beano demanded. "It's been three hours, you know."
"I went to Mass, Beano," Accorsi said. "Is that OK?"
Accorsi laughed as he told me. In fact, in each of the conversations I had Thursday with people who knew Beano well, I laughed hard at least once. That is the gift that Beano left us. He made us laugh when he was here. He is still making us laugh.
By Bob Smizik
I knew Beano for 50 years, from the time I was a cub reporter at The Pitt News. Naturally, many memories flash through my mind.
In 1963, Beano and I roomed together at Goshen, Indiana, for the Pitt-Notre Dame game. Imagine that.
The many nights at Gustines where Beano, Jim O'Brien and I shared good times, but, with Beano, never a drink.
He often boasted, always to laughs, that he was financially independent because he never had a car, a wife and a second wife. He not only once had a car, in the 60s, but I rode in it.
He loved a good time more than anything and all that had to be was sitting around talking, especially with newspaper guys. Who could forget him holding court at Steelers games back in the '90s at Three Rivers Stadium? For Beano, the best time was from 11 to 1. Once the game started, he went home.
The stories about Beano's escapades are legend. He could say and do almost anything to almost anyone. At my first Final Four in 1980, we were in the hotel lobby in Indianapolis when Wayne Duke, the commissioner of the Big Ten and one of the most powerful men in college sports, stepped off the elevator. Beano immediately hurled a good-natured but biting insult across the lobby. I couldn't believe it. But Duke smiled, acknowledged Beano and went on his way. Later that night, Beano made sure I was included at dinner with the CBS big shots.
Beano liked to help people. He liked to do it quietly and often you never knew it. At Beano's urging in the spring of 1963, I applied for a Wall Street Journal scholarship, which paid $500 -- an incredible amount of money back then -- but only if you could land a summer job. Somehow, I won the scholarship, but had no job prospects.
Beano suggested I apply at UPI, which at the time had a large operation in Pittsburgh. Long story, short, I got the job although I was tremendously underqualified. How'd I get the job? As we all know, Beano could place a phone call and make someone an All-American. Turns out he could make a phone call and get a kid with no experience a job at a major wire service.
I am pleased we stayed in touch for almost all of those 50 years. It's trite but true: He did it his way.
By Kenny Scholtz
As for a favorite memory - I am grateful to have too many to include in an email. I was lucky enough to be part of a weekly lunch session with Beano for almost 9 straight years. In 2002, my friend J.T. Render and I were both working downtown - and J.T.s father, the legendary coach at Upper St. Clair, told us that Beano taped his weekly radio and TV segments in a studio on the first floor of a building on Stanwix Street - and that he usually ate lunch beforehand at a little deli in the building. Beano had been a friend of J.T.'s family for many years - and Coach Render encouraged us to go grab lunch with Beano...having grown up watching Beano on ESPN and being lifelong college football fans, naturally, we jumped at the chance - and the weekly lunch routine, every Thursday, began. Early on, it was just Beano, J.T. and me. We were soon joined by regulars Terry Shields (a PG sports editor who had known Beano for years) and Colin Dunlap. Beano, Terry, Colin and I became the solid four man crew for the better part of six years, after J.T. had moved to Cleveland. We rarely missed the Thursday lunch. During weeks including holidays or special TV/radio programming schedules, Beano would call each one of us in advance, with a quick schedule change, and rarely an outright cancellation. Over the years, we also had cameo lunch guests including Gene Collier, Paul Zeise, Ellis Cannon, Mark Madden, Coach Jim Render, Mike White, Ray Fittipaldo and Brian O'Neill to name a few.
For an attorney who spent my work day caught up in legal issues and dealings with adversaries - the weekly lunch with Beano was like sports therapy for me, a lifelong sports fan. College football was the primary subject of almost every lunch session - which was fine by us - but football wasn't the only topic of discussion during the weekly agenda at lunch. Even as he got older, Beano had an amazing grip on current events, politics, history, religion and pop culture. The sports world knew Beano to be this irascible, opinionated, old-school sports guy - which he was in a lot of ways. But I think that's an incomplete description, because I think he had an amazing ability to connect with people, albeit through sports. For example, as one could imagine, Beano was a visible fixture in that deli during our weekly lunches - strangers (mostly football fans) would sometimes walk up to our table to say hello and shake his hand. Invariably, Beano would ask the person where they went to school, and he'd follow that up with a statistic, quote, fact, or story related to the school (whether it was a college or a local high school). If it was a college with a storied football program, he'd sometimes belt out the first verse of the fight song - and give the surprised alum a good-natured scolding if they couldn't sing along, or if they couldn't recall exact details about some game from fifty years ago, or the names of players or coaches (which Beano could, of course with ease). In two minutes' time, you could tell these people were in awe - rightfully so. If you were a sports fan meeting him for the first time, or had the chance to spend time with him on a weekly basis, he never disappointed.
I miss him, a lot.
By Guy Junker
Beano had so many great quips and one-liners that made us all laugh but my fondest memory of him is of his quiet generosity. He would come into Fox Sports at Christmas with envelopes, VERY generous envelopes, for all of the younger members of the staff who weren't making a lot of money at the time. He didn't make a big deal of it but always made their holidays special.
By Louise Cornetta
Beano Cook was someone I talked to every week for years as he would come on a show I produced at the time: Todd Wright AllNight on ESPN Radio. He always had such a huge crush on Stephanie Powers from Hart to Hart. So one day when Beano was doing his weekly hit with us on the radio, I had Stephanie call in to surprise him (she also sent him an autographed photo that he told me he treasured). That may be the only time I've heard Beano be speechless. He was simply the best, and it is an honor that I could call him my friend.
By Budd Thalman
From my days as Navy SID until I retired from
Penn State in 2001, Beano was in my life on a regular basis. We always
treasured our relationship and regularly laughed out loud at his numerous
outrageous comments, most of which we've regularly repeated over the years. He
was an original in every sense of the word, someone who loved Pitt and
By Leo O'Donnell
Beano had been my friend since college days in the mid-1950s.
My family has strong ties to Notre Dame - my father's alma mater as well as mine.
Growing up I remember the great parties at our house celebrating each Notre Dame game. After college, Beano would come to the parties when Pitt played ND in Pittsburgh. He was always the ever faithful Pitt fan discussing the football teams with my Dad and always giving Pitt the slight edge.
No one loved college football more than Beano!
And - no one loved to party more than Beano! At one time he made arrangements to use the Chatham Village Community Center to have a party and as sometimes happened in our youth, the party got a little out of control. We all had a great time and after the party to everyone's surprise, the Chatham Village Board of Directors didn't impose any disciplinary action.
As I look back on occasions like these, I do so with great fondness for a wonderful guy.
The college football world and his many friends will miss Beano for his knowledge, wisdom and ever present wit.
The following is a favorite poem written by Henry Van Dyke, an American poet, educator and clergyman who was a graduate of Princeton:
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads his white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. He is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch him until at length he hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: "There, he is gone!"
Gone from my sight. That is all. He is just as large in mast and hull and spar as he was when he left my side and he is just as able to bear the load of living freight to his destined port.
His diminished size is in me, not in him. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: "There, he is gone!" there are other eyes watching his coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: "Here he comes!"
And that is dying.
Henry Van Dyke
By Jim Render
Shortly after I met Beano, I drove him to Columbus, Ohio, to do an interview with Vic Janowicz, a former Heisman Trophy winner. My uncle had been Vic's high school coach at Elyria, Ohio, and I had grown up with stories about Vic, Ohio State, and of course Woody Hayes. Beano was in the process of interviewing all of the Heisman winners in a series presented by ESPN. As I knew Beano did not like to fly, nor did he drive or own a car, I offered to take him to Columbus. He thought that would be great. He said, "you would do that?" I on the other hand thought it would be a fantastic trip which it turned out to be.
Almost everything was a great memory. Even checking into the hotel was an experience as according to Beano they had reservations for two Carroll Cook(s). Of course his comment was that this is "unbelievable." The stories about the actual interview are too numerous to write about at this time, but believe me they were both memorable and unbelievable.
When we got back to Pittsburgh and I was helping unload my SUV, he discovered that his always present briefcase was not with us and was probably with the Janowicz family in their home and since Vic was sickly, (the interview was never aired) and Mrs. Janowicz was not very happy or in favor of us coming into her home to do an interview, Beano was convinced he would never see his briefcase again. Beano rushed into his apartment very distraught and I almost turned around and drove back to Columbus on a very blustery snowy January night. My wife remarked that I would not have taken her to Mt. Lebanon on this night but was considering going back to Ohio for Beano.
This story did end well as I called Alby Oxenrider and got him to get someone from an ABC station in Columbus to drive over and get Beano's possessions and send them back to Pittsburgh. If I ever decide to write a book about my experiences in life and football, Beano will have a chapter and this Columbus trip will lead it off.
By Karen Oxenreiter
Years ago, there was a TV show called "Sisters." One of the sisters was Sela Ward, and Beano loved her. He'd always remind me that she is a former Alabama cheerleader! Anyway, we both watched that show religiously, and Beano would call me every week so we could discuss what happened and how gorgeous Sela looked that week. We talked a lot on the phone, especially when Alby was at work and our children were asleep. I guess we kept each other company. He'd usually end our conversation by saying, "Call me, but not during "JAG." Beano had a "thing" for Kristen Bell, too! I sure do miss him....
By Lou Prato
My best memories of Beano were back in the 1960s before he became a national sports broadcasting icon. We had first met in the late 1950s when I was an undergraduate at Penn State and a sportswriter for the student newspaper. Beano liked to befriend young aspiring sports journalists like me, even though I and some others, like Sandy Padwe, were affiliated with Pitt's bitterest rival.
It was in the 1960s while working in Pittsburgh that I got to know Beano best, and appreciate his natural sense of humor. Back then, the media met with area football coaches or their representatives every Tuesday in the fall for lunch at Frankie Gustine's Restaurant near Forbes Field. Beano always had a few quips or wisecracks that enlivened those gatherings, and when Joe Paterno attended as an assistant he and Beano often went at it with an edgy repartee.
But it was when Beano, Jim O'Brien and Sandy Padwe started Pittsburgh Weekly Sports in 1963 that I really became part of Beano's coterie. I'm sure old timers remember Pittsburgh Weekly Sports. The idea was to publish a weekly sports paper that carried original stories and reprints of stories and columns by some of the leading national sportswriters along with fresh local stories. I spent most of the '60s decade in Pittsburgh working fulltime for either the Associated Press, BBDO advertising, or Channel 11 television news, while also freelance writing for magazines. So, I became one of Beano and Jim's staff writers/managing editors, along with Chuck Lynch and Bob Smizik--who, like Jim, was still going to Pitt when the paper started and then taught school full time.
Sandy had left for a job in New York shortly after the paper started, but Pittsburgh Weekly Sports became an artistic success as Beano and Jim persuaded writers like Red Smith, Jim Murray, Larry Merchant, Furman Bisher, Dick Young and others to contribute. Almost overnight, the paper seemed to develop into a trade magazine for sportswriters, and Bud Collins of the Boston Globe referred to it as "our (writers') yearbook."
At one point, the paper had subscribers in 38 states, including some of the writers themselves, and such high profile peoples as NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and baseball's Bill Veeck, as well as prison inmates in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. Bob and I had a ball writing, and I look back on many of those pieces as my best writing ever, maybe because we really could write just about what we wanted to with very light editing. But we wrote for love not money, and there were many times we bickered with Beano about the paper's continuing shaky finances. Eventually, the paper could not make it financially and folded in 1968, I believe.
Sometime during this period, my wife Carole and I got Beano a blind date for a Penn State home football game. Unbelievable now, when I think about it. Her name was Ann Ward and she had been a classmate of mine at Indiana High School. We drove up to Penn State, Ann sat with Carole in Beaver Stadium while Beano and I were in the Press Box, and then on the way back to Pittsburgh stopped for dinner at a then popular Italian restaurant in Tyrone. All through the trip Beano carried his trademark clipboard to write notes, and with the small towel always hanging around his neck he could continue to wipe off the sweat on his head and sometimes blow his nose. That was Beano. Carole and I were used to it but Ann kept looking at him in a weird way. As I recall, she never said much until days later. But she never forgot the trip and neither did Beano.
I didn't see much of Beano after I left Pittsburgh in December of 1969 but we occasionally communicated, and that's how I got Beano in 1998 to endorse my first sports book, The Penn State Football Encyclopedia. By that time he was a big time sports celebrity but he didn't hesitate. You can read his endorsement on page IV of my book, right across from the table of contents, and included this sentence: "As one who relishes the history of college football, I recommend this book."
About three years ago, Beano called and among the first words out of his mouth were: "How's Ann Ward? Do you know where she is now?"
I couldn't believe it. I told him Ann had married Dave Johnson, who for years was the head football coach at Washington (PA) High School, and that I had last seen Ann at a high school reunion many years ago. Beano said he would like to talk to her and could I track her down. Wow, I thought. I was sure Ann would remember that date, but I wondered if she would talk to him after all these years.
I found Ann in the family's summer home in upper Michigan, and Dave had been battling a serious illness for years. Yes, she said, she'd be happy to talk to Beano. I gave Beano her phone number and forgot about it.
A few months later, Ann called me from Michigan. She said she had just got off the phone with Beano, and she had been shocked that he called. Ann had a great conversation with Beano and they had talked at length. "He is a really nice guy," she said, "but what a character."
I couldn't have said it better. RIP Beano.
By Gerry Dulac
Beano never answered the phone like a normal person, which is why I always enjoyed when I called him.
He always answered the phone the same way, "McGarrett 5-0," because he loved watching Hawaii 5-0. Then I would say, Beano, it's Gerry Dulac.
And he would never hesitate with the response.
He would make that little throaty sound he makes and say, 'Ah... hold on my man," and he would hold the phone away from his mouth and pretend to yell across the room to someone.
"Honey, that massage is going to have to wait," he would say. "Gerry Dulac is on the phone."
Only he never used the word "massage."
By Neil Rudel
I was having dinner at home on a Sunday night this past July, shortly after the NCAA issued Penn State its sanctions for the upcoming football season and beyond.
Beano, itching "to stick the needle in," called.
My wife Dianne (one of the few women Beano claims to have liked; "she's a good chick -- she knows her place," he'd say) answered.
She asked if I could call him back, to which he replied, "Just ask him how the Grand Experiment's going!"
Like everyone else who loved Beano, I have many other stories -- none fonder than in the press room on Sunday afternoons before Pirates games at Three Rivers Stadium when he'd hold court and welcome a small-town guy (then with the Beaver County Times) at his table alongside the likes of Stan Savran, Bob Smizik and other heavyweights in Pittsburgh sports media history.