Weber, Pete

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(b. 21 August 1962 in St. Louis, Missouri), one of professional bowling's most notorious and successful stars.

Weber, the youngest child of famed bowler Dick Weber, learned bowling secrets early by watching his father and other bowling greats in competition. Dick and Juanita, Weber's homemaker mother, raised an entire family of bowlers: older brothers Richard and John competed on the professional bowling circuit for a time, and his sister once rolled a perfect game.

As a toddler Weber was a regular bowler at his father's Florissant, Missouri, bowling alley. By the age of twelve he rolled his first perfect game and was spending three hours a day on the lanes. "I hated school," Weber later told People Weekly. "But trying to knock down ten pins every time, that fascinated me." At fifteen he began playing in American Bowling Congress (ABC) sanctioned competition, bowling another perfect game in his first game in the adult league in 1978.

In 1979 Weber quit McClure North Senior High School and joined the professional tour. In 1980 the Professional Bowling Association (PBA) named him Rookie of the Year. That year, he married his first wife DeeDee; they had two children.

Weber seemed destined for stardom. He had his father's skill and versatility but threw the ball with even more power. His style was much more flashy, with a dangerously high back swing combined with rapid footwork. At five feet, seven inches, and 135 pounds, Weber did not look athletic. He sported a mustache, had brooding eyes, and was quick-tempered.

Weber won his first two tournaments in 1982, finishing seventh in earnings on the tour. He was in the top ten in earnings the following year but did not win a title. Then, for the next ten seasons he won at least one tournament every year. No bowler in the history of the sport had ever accomplished so much at such a young age.

Weber almost threw it all away. A hard drinker and partyer even as a teenager, he soon acquired a cocaine habit. Over several years, Weber squandered an estimated $200,000 on the drug and began to act aggressively toward opponents. In 1984 he entered the White Deer Treatment Center in Lonedell, Missouri, for a four-week stay. He stopped using hard drugs but a year later began drinking again. When playing with his father, however, Weber was sober and restrained. "When I room with Dad, I don't party," Weber said. "He keeps me calm." Weber's marriage soon ended in divorce. His second wife, Tracy, brought a son into the marriage.

Weber continued to rub his rivals—and some fans—the wrong way. Cocky and flamboyant, he would taunt his opponents, kick ball racks, and scream obscenities during televised matches. "If you're emotionless, you're never going to be great," Weber said. "I let everyone know I'm bowling badly and I'm not happy about it. But that spirit and fire, that's what people want to see. That's what makes me fun to watch." Weber's gentlemanly father was bowling's most famous ambassador, and Weber struggled to emerge from his shadow. "Pete in his prime is definitely more talented than his father was," said PBA president Johnny Petraglia. "Dick was the complete package, though, and he was first; and that's what people use as the standard of comparison."

In 1987 Weber won bowling's most important competition—the Firestone Tournament of Champions—an event his father had never won. At twenty-five he became the youngest player in PBA history to win ten tournaments. Nevertheless, that year his peers voted his archrival Marshall Hollman PBA Player of the Year even though Hollman had not won a single tournament.

In 1988 Weber won the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America (BPAA) U.S. Open and the following year won the PBA National Championship, becoming only the fourth player to win the PBA Triple Crown. That same year, he was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Weber finished second in the ABC Masters in 1983 and 2000, just missing the chance to join Mike Aulby as the only player to win bowling's Grand Slam.

In the 1990s Weber added eleven more titles to his record, including the 1991 BPAA U.S. Open and the 1998 PBA National Championship. He never won Player of the Year; his discipline problems were still an embarrassment to his peers. Several of Weber's best seasons ended prematurely with a suspension.

In 1999 Weber, already on probation for verbal altercations with fans, was fined for "conduct unbecoming a professional" after getting into an argument with a fan and walking out of a PBA pro-am event (a tournament in which professional and amateur bowlers compete as pairs) in Bay City, Michigan. The PBA tour commissioner Mark Gerberich banned Weber from bowling for two years. Weber appealed the decision, and the parties ultimately agreed to a ten-month suspension, the longest in league history. At this point in his career, Weber trailed only Walter Ray Williams, Jr., on the PBA tour's all-time earnings list, with more than $2.2 million. His twenty-five career titles put him seventh all-time, one victory behind his father, who was tied for fourth.

The Grand Slam–winner Aulby was almost unanimously selected for inclusion into the 2001 American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame, but Weber received only 70 of 134 ballots cast—not nearly enough to be enshrined. However, Weber returned from his 2000 suspension with his usual confidence, vowing to become player of the year in 2001. "That's all I want to do—just go out there and beat them all," he told Bowling Digest. But he did not promise to turn a new leaf. "I'm going to be me," Weber said. "That's what they are going to get, whether they like it or not."

The magazine Bowling Digest (Feb. and Apr. 2001), is the best source for continuous information on Weber. See also People Weekly (22 Feb. 1988), and Sports Illustrated (15 July 1985 and 4 May 1987).

Michael Betzold