Legendary professional bowler Dick Weber made bowling history in 2002 when he became the first bowler ever to win at least one Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) title in six consecutive decades. Weber,
who won his first PBA title in 1959, grabbed his first title of the new millennium by winning the PBA Senior Regional Championship at New North Lanes in Taylorville, Illinois, on January 20, 2002. For his contributions to the world of pro bowling, Weber was inducted into the American Bowling Congress (ABC) Hall of Fame in 1970 and the PBA Hall of Fame in 1975. Weber ranks sixth on the PBA's all-time win list with twenty-six PBA Tour titles, and he's still going strong. Strong enough, in fact, to challenge his son, Pete Weber, a PBA Hall of Famer in his own right. With the younger Weber's induction into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1998, Dick and Pete Weber became the only father-and-son inductees. The Webers also became the only father-andson inductees in the ABC Hall of Fame when Pete was inducted in 2002.
Born in Indianapolis
He was born Richard Anthony Weber in Indianapolis, Indiana, on December 23, 1929. The son of Carl John and Marjorie Amelia (Dunn) Weber, he began bowling while still a boy. After finishing school, Weber took a job as a postal clerk in Indianapolis but bowled whenever he could. He entered his first American Bowling Congress (ABC) tournament in 1948. Of that first tournament, Weber years later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that "the ABC I remember the most is my first one in Detroit in 1948. I had never been there before, and walking out to the lanes was a thrill." That same year he married Juanita Delk on December 23, his birthday. The couple has four children, Richard Jr., Paula Kae, Carl John, and Peter David.
In the mid-1950s, Weber left his postal job and Indianapolis behind when he received an offer to join the famed Budweiser bowling team of St. Louis. Also playing for the St. Louis bowling team were future Hall of Famers Don Carter , Ray Bluth, Pat Patterson, Tom Hennessey, and Bill Lillard. "I had a beat-up car and not much more, but it was a great opportunity," Weber told Chuck Pezzano of the Bergen Record.
One of the biggest factors in propelling professional bowling into the spotlight in the second half of the 20th century was the formation in 1958 of the Professional Bowlers Association, in which Weber played a key role. However, the unlikely central figure in the establishment of the PBA was a lawyer/television personality named Eddie Elias. In the 1950s, while working his way through law school, Elias hosted a television talk show at WAKR.
Bowlers' Low Pay Outrages Elias
It was an interview with Dick Weber and some other leading bowlers of the day that planted the seed that eventually grew into the PBA. During the course of the interview, Weber years later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the conversation got around to compensation. "Eddie wondered how much we got paid. We told him, and he was outraged and said we should be getting more. He asked us what we would think about a professional bowling association."
Not long thereafter, thirty-three of the leading bowlers of the 1950s met with Elias to discuss the idea at a motel in Mountainside, New Jersey, after the American Bowling Congress Masters Tournament. "He said he needed 50 bucks from each of us before we started talking," Weber recalled. "He told us he would make money first and we would make money second. He started getting tournament sponsorships and the purses went from $2,000 to $2,500 and from there it blossomed to what we have today. Everything he said, he did, and it worked." And thus the PBA was born. Elias served as the fledgling organization's legal counsel and worked diligently to promote the sport during the PBA's early years. With the help of television coverage and larger purses, Elias managed to bring bowling into the mainstream. In 1959, the nineteen-year-old Weber, one of the PBA's thirty-three charter members, won the last two of the three tournaments on the inaugural PBA Tour. He went on to win eight of the PBA's first twenty-one tournaments.
Helps Popularize Bowling
Weber is perhaps as well known for his efforts to popularize bowling as for his bowling expertise itself. Weber used television to tell millions of Americans about the joys of bowling and to legitimize bowling as a sport. He was there when ABC-TV first began televising the PBA Tour in the early 1960s and has outlived that relationship to become a frequent guest on David Letterman's late-night talk show. Over the years Weber has helped to promote bowling as an owner of a bowling center, a charter member and president of the PBA, TV announcer and analyst, and inventor and salesman for dozens of bowling products. Further cementing Weber's reputation as one of bowling's best ambassadors have been his frequent tours around the United States and abroad to conduct bowling clinics and exhibitions. In the mid-1990s he conducted such a tour of South Korea.
|1929||Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on December 23|
|1948||Marries Juanita Delk on December 23|
|1948||Bowls in first ABC tournament|
|1955||Joins Budweiser bowling team|
|1958||Helps establish PBA as one of 33 charter members|
|1969-70||Serves as PBA president|
|1981||Joins PBA Senior Tour|
|1995||Announces plan to cut back on tournament play|
|2002||Bowls in 55th ABC tournament|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1959||First PBA tournament win|
|1961, 1963, 1965||Named Bowler of the Year by the Bowling Writers Association of America (BWAA)|
|1965||PBA Player of the Year Award|
|1970||Inducted into ABC Hall of Fame|
|1975||Inducted into PBA Hall of Fame|
|2001||Hired to do color commentary for TV coverage of AMF Bowling World Cup|
|2002||Named one of 20 best bowlers of the 20th century by Bowling Magazine|
|2002||Won PBA Senior Tour tournament to become first bowler to win a PBA title in six different decades|
With the advent of nationwide televised coverage of professional bowling, Weber's fame as a bowler grew rapidly. He dominated the bowling scene in the first half of the 1960s and was named Bowler of the Year by the Bowling Writers' Association of America (BWAA) in 1961, 1963, and 1965. Because Weber's best years on the PBA Tour came relatively early in the history of professional bowling, his career earnings of just under $1 million on the PBA Tour are dwarfed by the leading bowlers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. But Weber was among the best of his era, and he still hasn't lost his touch, as he proved in January 2002 when he won another tournament on the PBA Senior Tour. For his career as a whole, Weber has won four All-Star titles, eleven All-American Team honors, twenty-six PBA tournaments, and six PBA Senior titles.
Inducted into ABC Hall of Fame
Weber's brilliance as a bowler was recognized in 1970 by the American Bowling Congress, which inducted him that year into its Hall of Fame. In accepting the honor, Weber was moved to tears, according to Chuck Pezzano, bowling columnist for the Record (Bergen County, NJ). The bowling great walked to the podium and said: "I had so much to say when I was in the dressing room, but I find the words coming hard now," as the tears began to roll down his cheeks. Looking back on his emotional reaction, Weber later told Pezzano: "My mind just went blank. I got a feeling the whole world was looking down on me. I was surprised because basically I'm a ham. I like the spotlight. I never thought I'd see the day when I was speechless.
In February 2000 Bowling Magazine, the official publication of the ABC, conducted a poll to identify the twenty best bowlers of the 20th century. Weber topped the list, followed by Earl Anthony , Don Carter, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Mark Roth, Mike Auby, Hank Marino, Don Johnson, Ned Day, Joe Norris, Peter Weber (Weber's youngest son), Andy Varipapa, Billy Hardwick, Junie McMahon, Marshall Holman, Nelson Burton Jr., Bill Lillard, Carmen Salvino, Harry Smith, and Dick Ritger.
Seeks to Make Bowling Better
Generally an easy-going man, Weber sometimes gets fired up when he's fighting for the future of bowling. As keynote speaker at the 1999 convention of the East Coast Bowling Centers, Weber said: "Bowling is not just fun and recreation; it's a legitimate sport. But we must clear up the confusion between amateur and pro bowlers. It bewilders those who aren't into bowling. They can't figure out how amateurs can earn more money than pros, and how league bowlers can outscore pros because of easier lane conditions. There should be better ways to judge the elite bowlers."
Weber's still playing the game he loves, but there's no question his pace has slowed. Although he still competes on the PBA Senior Tour, he spends more and more of his time these days watching—with pride—the bowling exploits of his son, Pete Weber. When Pete was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1998, his father was fairly bursting with joy. "I'm the most honored that a dad can be," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "This is a very elated honor."
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SELECTED WRITINGS BY WEBER:
Champion's Guide to Bowling, Simon & Schuster, 1979.
Weber on Bowling: The Complete Guide to Getting Your Game Together, Prentice Hall, 1980.
"Dick Weber." Almanac of Famous People, 6th edition. Detroit: Gale Group, 1998.
Clark, Tom. "Weber Has PBA on Edge." USA Today (March 1, 2002): 3C.
Clark, Tom. "Weber Rolls Out the Fun." USA Today (February 15, 2002): 12C.
Friedman, Jack. "Jocks: Young, Gifted and Reckless, Bowler Pete Weber Tries to Keep His Life Out of the Gutter." People (February 22, 1988): 69.
Pezzano, Chuck. "Legendary Weber the First to Win Titles in Five Decades." Record (Bergen County, NJ) (August 16, 1992): S16.
Pezzano, Chuck. "One More Honor for Dick Weber." Record (Bergen County, NJ) (October 15, 1995): S23.
Pezzano, Chuck. "Weber Remains the Sport's Best Ambassador." Record (Bergen County, NJ) (November 7, 1999): S16.
Pezzano, Chuck. "20th Century's Top 20 to be Honored by ABC." Record (Bergen County, NJ) (February 6, 2000): S15.
Reed, Don. "No Matter the Time of Day, Weber Strikes Up Interest at His 50th ABC." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (March 11, 1997): 2C.
Schildroth, Keith. "Bowlers Hope Sale of League Saves PBA; Dick Weber Says the Proposed Sale Is the Start of a New Era." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (January 23, 2000): F11.
Schildroth, Keith. "PBA Founder Elias Used Television to Carry Bowling Into Mainstream." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (November 27, 1998): D2.
Schildroth, Keith. "Weber Joins His Dad in PBA Hall of Fame." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (November 16, 1998): B3.
"Dick Weber." PBA.com. http://www.pba.com/players/playerbio.asp?ID=33 (October 24, 2002).
"Dick Weber." St. Louis Hall of Fame. http://www.stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductees/dick-weber.html (October 24, 2002).
"Dick Weber to Do Color Commentary for 2001 Bowling World Cup." AMF. http://www.amf.com/wc01/pr100801a.html (October 24, 2002).
"Dick Weber Wins PBA Titles in Six Consecutive Decades." AMF. http://www.amf.com/pr/pr022502.html (October 24, 2002).
"Hall of Famer Dick Weber Always Thrilled to Bowl at ABC Championship." BowlingFans.com. http://www.bowlingfans.com/tour411/tour03122002.shtml (October 24, 2002).
"Obituary for Eddie Elias." CafeArabica.com. http://www.cafearabica.com/people/people13/peoelias13.html (October 25, 2002).
"Pete Weber." PBA.com. http://www.pba.com/players/playerbio.asp?ID=12 (October 24, 2002).
Sketch by Don Amerman