Richard Anthony Weber
December 23, 1929
|Died||February 14, 2005 (aged 75)|
|Wins||30 PBA Tour (4 majors)|
6 PBA Senior Tour (now known as PBA50)
Richard Anthony Weber (December 23, 1929 – February 14, 2005) was a ten-pin bowling professional and a founding member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA). Along with Don Carter, Weber is widely regarded as professional bowling's first superstar. He is one of only eight players in history to accumulate at least 30 career PBA Tour titles, and was also the first player to reach that plateau.
Weber made his first bowling headlines during the early 1950s, while working as a mailman in his native Indianapolis. In 1955 he moved to Florissant, Missouri to join the bowling team named the Budweisers (after the popular American beer brand). The team established a long-standing 5-man ABC league series record on March 12, 1958 at the National Team Match Games at Floriss Lanes in St. Louis, Missouri by toppling 3,858 pins with 138 strikes. This broke the previous ABC record for a 5-man team of 3,797 set in 1937. Weber himself rolled games of 258, 258 and 259 on the record-setting day for a 775 series. The Budweisers' record wasn't broken until 1994.
In 1958, Weber became a founding member of the Professional Bowlers Association, which he subsequently dominated. Weber captured his first PBA title in the second tournament of the inaugural 1959 season, and won three of the PBA's first four tournaments.
He went on to win 10 of the first 23 PBA tournaments, including winning seven titles in the 13-event 1961 PBA season. Only Mark Roth has won more titles in a PBA season with eight victories in 1978, but Roth's feat was accomplished over a 35-event season.
During his career, Weber won titles in 30 PBA Tour events, including four major titles. All of his major titles were earned in the BPAA All-Star, which later became the U.S. Open. Weber won this tournament four times in a five-year span (1962, '63, '65 and '66). He was twice runner-up in the Firestone Tournament of Champions (1965 and 1966). He earned his final PBA Tour title at age 47 in the 1977 King Louie Open. He went on to capture six PBA Senior Tour events, amassing a total of 36 PBA titles in both categories.
He was PBA Player of the Year in 1965, and earned BPAA National Bowler of the Year honors three times (in 1961, 1963 and 1965). He was named an All-American ten times, and in 1999 was ranked #2 bowler of the 20th Century by Bowlers Journal. In 2002 Weber also became the first player to win at least one PBA title in six decades (counting PBA Senior events).
Despite already being 29 years old when the first PBA tournament took place in 1959, Weber managed to cash over $930,000 in career PBA earnings. He also enjoyed a decades-long sponsorship agreement with AMF bowling.
League bowling in the United States had its heyday in the 1960s and early 1970s, partly due to the influence of pros like Weber and Don Carter. Several PBA pros like Johnny Petraglia claimed to be inspired by Dick Weber: "The main reason I went on Tour was Dick Weber. When I was 14, I saw him do an exhibition in Madison Square Garden. When I left I remember saying to myself: 'I know what I want to do now; I want to be like Dick Weber.'"
Both Weber and his son Pete are members of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame and the PBA Hall of Fame. When Pete won his first PBA title in 1982, it marked the first time in history that a father and son had both won PBA Tour titles. The feat has since been matched by Don and Jimmy Johnson, Don and Eugene McCune, and Guppy and Kyle Troup.
In 1999, Dick Weber was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. The PBA ranked him 3rd on its 2008 list of "50 Greatest Players of the Last 50 Years." Only all-time titles leaders Earl Anthony and Walter Ray Williams, Jr. ranked higher.
Weber was also known as a tireless ambassador of his sport, and rarely passed up an opportunity to promote it. One promotion had him bowling the highest (altitude) game ever in "Operation AstroBowl," which took place on a Boeing 707 on January 7, 1964. This was a joint campaign for American Airlines' Cargo Service. The aircraft used was an all-cargo Boeing 707 with a single AMF lane installed in the main cargo hold. The flight was from New York to Dallas. Weber also appeared several times on Late Show with David Letterman.
On February 14, 2005, Richard Anthony Weber died in Florissant, Missouri, at age 75. On the day of his death, Weber had just returned from a United States Bowling Congress (USBC) meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He showed no prior sign of ill-health but experienced serious breathing problems that evening and paramedics were unable to revive him. The underlying cause of death was not known, but was ultimately due to respiratory failure. Dick Weber was survived by his wife Juanita, one daughter, and three sons including the aforementioned Pete, also a professional bowler, and Richard Jr., who became a PBA employee and manager of the PBA's Midwest Region. Juanita, also an avid bowler who once won a state championship, died on April 13, 2020, at the age of 89.
Media presence and tributes
Weber also produced his own training video called Let's Bowl With Dick Weber. Its blurb reads: "Voted 'one of the best bowlers that ever lived,' Weber has held the PBA presidency and 26 PBA titles in a career that spans four decades. Weber covers all the basics: bowling accessories, proper ball weight and fit, stance, follow through, delivery and release. He even gives tips for aiming and addresses some of the common faults of new bowlers. This unique, in-depth video brings the elements of high-precision sport into your living room so you can practice these tips at the alley and begin building your bowling skills."
The Weber Cup, named after Dick, is a Ryder Cup-style event that pits European and American ten-pin bowlers against one another. It is held annually in England. From 2008 to 2010, the PBA had a tour stop named the Dick Weber Open. In 2011, the PBA named its all-new playoff series the Dick Weber PBA Playoffs.
"He was the greatest ambassador in the history of the game. Everybody liked Dick Weber, even the guy he was beating. Like (Arnold) Palmer, he's the one who got everyone interested in his sport."
—PBA Commissioner Tom Clark in 2016.
On April 17, 2006, the inaugural Dick Weber Tribute was held in St. Louis. Organized by Bill McCorkle, the event attracted many of bowling's top luminaries. The event was attended by over 20 members of the Weber family, representing four generations, as well as over 50 professional bowlers, including champions and members of the Hall of Fame. The highlight of the evening came when Pete Weber delivered a moving tribute. Many in the audience had never seen this side of him before.
A documentary on the life and fame of Dick Weber was released on March 23, 2007, by Live Technologies, Inc. and Bill McCorkle. It consists of interviews with many current and former professional bowlers, family, and sportscasters as well as footage covering Weber's 60-year history as a professional athlete.
Weber's legacy also lives on through the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA), which began giving out an annual BPAA Dick Weber Bowling Ambassador award in 2006 (won that year by Dick Ritger). The most recent award winner was Kyle Troup in 2022.
- Paul, Cozby (March 3, 2016). "Dick Weber Was Bowling's Everyman Superstar And Greatest Ambassador". Investor's Business Daily. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- Wiseman, Lucas (Feb 28, 2021). "Ultimate List: Every Player With A PBA Title". Retrieved June 28, 2021.
- "A RECORD GAME FOR THE BUDS". bowlingheritage.com. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
- Clark, Tom. "Pete Weber's resurgence has PBA on edge" (archive), USA Today, March 1, 2002.
- Chat log of Johnny Petraglia in "Talk Today" at www.usatoday.com, 1/21/05.
- 1982 Greater Hartford Open at www.pba.com
- St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Archived from the original on 31 October 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- Davis, Steve. "A Match Made in Heaven." Bowlers Journal, Mar 1984:86-92
- "Astrobowlers", San Bernardino Sun, pp. A-16, January 7, 1964, retrieved 16 December 2020
- Vint, Bill (April 14, 2020). "Juanita Weber, Matriarch of PBA's Most Famous Family, Dies in St. Louis at Age 89". pba.com. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
- "Bowling Emporium -- Instructional Videos". www.bowlingemporium.com. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27.
- "Weber Tribute a Success". BowlersJournal.com. Ludy Publishing Inc. April 24, 2006. Archived from the original on May 8, 2006. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
- "BOWLING INDUSTRY SERVICE AWARDS - Dick Weber Award". BPAA.com. Retrieved April 28, 2021.