Bowling Legend Dick Weber, 75, dies in sleep at home

    02/14/05

    United States

    Bowling loses its greatest ambassador ever

    By Dick Evans - February 14, 2005

    Dick_Weber_2810.jpg Dick Weber, bowling's greatest ambassador ever and possibly its greatest bowler ever, died peacefully in his sleep Sunday night at his home in the St. Louis Area. Less than 36 hours earlier Weber had gotten a standing ovation when he was introduced at the opening ceremonies of the 102nd American Bowling Championship Tournament at the River Center Convention Center in Baton Rouge, La.

    A tearful Rich Weber, Dick's oldest child, called Monday morning to deliver the sad news that will shake up the tenpin bowling world. Dick Weber had won 26 Professional Bowlers Association titles in his young years, six PBA Senior titles and four old National All-Star titles that featured 400 players and 100-game formats.

    On August 6, 1992, Dick Weber became the first professional bowler to win titles in six consecutive decades. At the age of 72, Dick Weber won his first PBA Senior Regional championship at New North Lanes in Taylorville, Illinois, on January 20, 2002, to become the first player to win a PBA event in six consecutive decades. No one else has ever done that.

    The rail-thin righthander in his young years was named National Bowler of the Year in 1961-63-65 and was voted one of the three all-time great bowlers at the end of the 20th century. He was inducted in the ABC Hall of Fame in 1970 and the PBA Hall of Fame in 1975.

    Weber also established a world wide following for anchoring the famous Budweiser teams and with a half century association with the AMF Bowling Ball company, which sent him around the world.

    He had gotten much media attention world wide by bowling a match in an airplane from the New York area to Texas, on the sand at Miami Beach and as a feature attraction with unorthodox bowling shots in Manhattan on national TV shows.

    He was a man who could never say no to an autograph seeker, an invitation or a bowling function.

    I told a friend that Dick Weber, 75, looked very tired at the reception before the ABC opening ceremonies Saturday night but still he was his genial self. He said that he would return to Baton Rouge for the ABC Hall of Fame ceremonies March 14-18 and to bowl in the tournament that he loved so dearly.

    Dick said he wished that the new United States Bowling Congress, which replaced the ABC Jan. 1, would hold future Hall of Fame ceremonies at the tournament site but would be there no matter where they were held.

    I had the honor to serve on Hall of Fame committees with Dick Weber and I was always impressed that when Dick Weber talked, everybody listened intently. In the past few years bowling has lost two of its greatest stars - Joe Norris and Earl Anthony.

    But neither of those great bowlers touched as many bowlers world wide as Dick Weber - his laugh was infectious, his personality always that of a champion, his bowling skills unmatched and his love of bowling unrivaled.

    Dick Weber will be dearly missed as a great bowler and a unique human being.


    Bowling mourns a Legend and its Greatest Ambassador

    After Dick Evans' early morning story Monday about Dick Weber's death we have received many other stories that exemplified what an extraordinary human being this "man for all ages" truly was. It's an honor for us publish some reactions on Dick Weber's passing as well as the front-page story in the Chicago Tribune and a review from his long-time friend Dick Evans, who shares a lot of memories with us. Scroll down to read the eulogies.


    Reaction to Dick Weber's Passing - February 14, 2005

    PBA officials and Tour bowlers shared their thoughts about the passing of bowling legend, Dick Weber:

    Fred Schreyer, PBA Commissioner:
    "The PBA is deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of bowling legend Dick Weber. His achievements on the lanes are equaled and surpassed only by his legacy off the lanes. He was a great competitor and champion, and he was an outstanding ambassador for our sport. More importantly, Dick was a truly good, compassionate person who treated everyone like family. We send our condolences out to the Weber family."

    Steve Miller, PBA President and CEO:
    "Not only is it a tremendous loss for our sport, but it's a loss for all of sport. His bowling history is well documented, but what is less documented was his character, personality and humanity. I'm going to miss him on a professional and personal level."

    Carmen Salvino, PBA Hall of Famer:
    "You don't replace a person like Dick Weber, you just don't. The sport will have to deal with this loss. He was not only a great bowler but one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet off the lanes. He was genuine. When he was out on Tour there was never any jealousy when he won a tournament. Even the guys that finished second were happy for him, and when you have the respect of all your competitors you have obviously done something right.

    "My only regret is that I never got to bowl doubles with him. We were competitors for 50 years. We always had a great respect and admiration for each other. He was just such a great man. You'll never find anyone who will disagree with that.

    "When you talk about greatness, I think there are two types of greatness. One, is greatness in a decade. Two, is greatness in six decades. He did something that will probably never be done again and that is to be competitive and win a title in six decades.

    "You may never see another Dick Weber. He was a rarity and a special type of person. He was just a great human being and the most amazing thing about him is that he would not want people to think that. I love him as a person and I am really going to miss him."

    Parker Bohn III:
    "Today marks the day we lost the best ambassador our sport has ever known. It's a sad day in the bowling world. We're bowling in one of the premier events in the U.S. Open and regardless of who the eventual champion is, that person will always remember that Dick Weber passed away this weekend.
    "Dick Weber was not only a great player but he was a friend to everyone in the bowling industry regardless of what company you worked for. The whole bowling world lost its best friend today."

    Walter Ray Williams Jr.:
    "It's just so sad to hear. I feel for the family and my condolences go to the Weber family. It's a shame that he's no longer with us."

    Amleto Monacelli:
    "I knew him since 1982 when I first came out on Tour. I feel lucky that I know what a great person he is. When I first came out he had so much respect for me and he was one of the guys who helped me deal with the Tour. My condolences go to the Weber family.
    "I think he was an unbelievable pioneer for the PBA and it's too bad he's not with us anymore. God bless his family. I know he is in a better place. He's done so much for the PBA, for his family, for everyone. He did everything he could possibly do."

    Lonnie Waliczek:
    "He was the largest icon in our sport. His passing has been a shock to all of the players. He will be greatly missed."

    Steve Jaros:
    "Everyone is just shocked. Especially for those of us who bowled in the Midwest Region, to us it feels even more like we've lost a member of the family. It's very sad.
    "His legacy is his love for the game and for life in general. It radiated from him. At his age, usually people are starting to slow down but he was so involved in everything and so enthusiastic about it. We all hope we can have that same energy that Dick had."

    Michael Haugen Jr.:
    "It's one of the saddest days in the history of bowling. He was such a great ambassador. He's done more for the game than anyone. It's truly a sad day. I don't think he's ever said a bad word about anyone. I feel very sorry for the family and I wish them all the best."


    Dick Weber (1929 - 2005) - In bowling's heyday, he was the kingpin
    As leagues give way to laser light shows, the sport mourns a legend and its greatest champion

    By Melissa Isaacson, Tribune staff reporter, Published February 15, 2005
    Re-published courtesy of chicagotribune.com

    For three bucks, you could rent shoes, bowl three games, chip in for fries and a Coke and still come home with change. It was an age when curling up on a Saturday to watch Dick Weber go up against the competition on the latest PBA tour stop passed for a great afternoon of entertainment.

    There might have been an old movie or "Lassie" on WGN, maybe golf on CBS or NBC. It hardly mattered. Whatever the other channels offered didn't stand a chance either. We watched Weber and listened to ABC's Chris Schenkel in staggering numbers, which is why so many of us can still close our eyes and remember.

    It is also why a sport mourns and Schenkel wept Monday over the death of one of the bowling's great champions and its most gracious ambassadors.

    "Everybody knew Dick Weber," an emotional Schenkel said of Weber, who died Sunday night at his home in Florissant, Mo. "My wife was in love with him. Most people looked at him as somebody you wanted to have a drink with. I'm real shook up. I just can't believe he's dead, I just can't."

    His passing from undetermined causes was unexpected at age 75 because Weber was active and vibrant and still traveling frequently to promote the sport he loved. On Friday and Saturday, he was in Baton Rouge, La., to participate in opening ceremonies of the 102nd American Bowling Congress Championships. On Sunday, he had breakfast with Steve James, the retired executive director of the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame, before flying back to St. Louis.

    "Getting on the plane," James said Monday, "as Dick handed over his boarding pass, some guy was walking by and yelled 'Are you Dick Weber?' and Dick smiled and waved and said, 'Hey, how are you?' like he knew him personally. "An awful lot of athletes and some bowlers, too, wouldn't have turned around, but that wasn't Dick."

    Weber did not have to try to be an Everyman. He was born on Dec. 23, 1929, in Indianapolis and was a postman in Indianapolis before being invited to St. Louis to join the Budweisers, still considered the greatest bowling team ever assembled, with Weber, Don Carter, Ray Bluth, Pat Patterson and Tom Hennessey.

    He won 26 PBA Tour events, was Bowler of the Year in '61, '63 and '65, held titles in six decades and was named to his sport's Hall of Fame. In a 1999 Bowling Magazine poll, Weber was named the best bowler of the 20th Century.

    "When you say we lost one of the giants of sport, it's not true," said pro bowler Johnny Petraglia, a Weber friend of 45 years. "We lost the giant. There's no one else."

    Yet, Weber never cracked a $1 million in career earnings. Since 1957 he lived in the same modest home outside St. Louis with Juanita, his wife of 55 years. And next year would have been his 50th year with AMF Bowling Ball Co. believed to be the longest contract any athlete has had with one manufacturer.

    He was called the Arnold Palmer of his sport, enjoying a visibility even greater during an era when there were no less than four network bowling shows a week on television in the early 1960s. But it was Weber's warmth and eminent approachability that made him seem like everyone's uncle, buddy or next-door neighbor.

    "People would come up to him and want his autograph," James said, "and after he'd hand it back, he'd say 'Thank you. Thank you for asking.'"

    Carter, his legendary Budweiser teammate and friend of nearly 50 years, called him "the greatest bowler there ever was and by far the best ambassador we've had for the sport. It's a tremendous loss for his family, the bowling industry and for everyone."

    Though he remained upbeat and positive, friends say Weber took bowling's decline in popularity to heart. Although it is a $10 billion a year industry, according to Mark Miller of the U.S. Bowling Congress, with about 70 million age 6 and above estimated to go bowling at least once a year, the game has obviously changed dramatically.

    As laser-light shows take over where automatic scoring left off, recreational bowlers far outnumber league players and prices soar as high as $5 per game and $3.50 for shoes in the suburbs. The pro tour is now run by former Microsoft and Nike executives and is, said James, "fighting for survival."

    "The old established group, particularly the seniors, feel like they've been knifed in the back," he said. Weber, however, was still a godlike figure to today's pro bowlers and was tireless in his promotion of the game. "He was always accessible to everyone, always trying to help with their game. He never said no," said Carter. "Like my wife, Paula, said, he probably just wore out."

    Carter recalled the opening of his bowling center in South Florida in 1991, when Weber happily agreed to appear. "When I saw him, I said, 'What are you doing here?' He had a mini-stroke the week before and he still came," Carter said. "I said, 'Dick, you're not bowling' and he said, 'It's OK, I feel pretty good,' and shot a 289.

    "I ran down, got the ball, put it in my office and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn't get any better than this.' They don't make them like Dick Weber anymore." And they don't draw 9.2 ratings like ABC Sports garnered in 1972 for its bowling telecast.

    "Golf was like a little toy," Schenkel said of the bowling telecast's domination, which he steered for 37 years. "Hockey, basketball, we killed 'em all, mostly because of guys like Dick.
    "Other than maybe Arnold Palmer, Dick Weber was the fiercest competitor I've ever seen."

    On Sunday night, Juanita Weber told friends that the couple went to bed early because Dick had had such a long travel day. It was after midnight that she noticed his breathing was labored and called 911. Paramedics were unable to revive him.

    Besides his wife, Weber is survived by a daughter, Paula Darmon, and three sons, Rich, John and Pete. Pete Weber dropped out of the U.S. Open in North Brunswick, N.J., Monday, where he is the defending champion.

    Weber said attending so many funeral services of friends over the years convinced him that was not what he wanted. His body will be cremated and there will be no memorial service.

    "Don Carter and Earl Anthony may have had bigger names in their own eras, but Dick transcended all of them," said Jim Dressel, editor of Chicago-based Bowlers Journal for 30 years. "It's a real loss for bowling, a very sad day. Dick Weber was a beautiful human being."


    Bowling Legend Dick Weber dies at age 75
    ABC, PBA Hall of Famer passes away in his sleep Sunday night

    By Mark Miller, United States Bowling Congress

    Dick Weber, considered by many experts to be the best bowler in history, died unexpectedly in his sleep Sunday night in his suburban St. Louis home. He was 75.

    Weber had returned earlier in the day from Baton Rouge, La., where he participated in Saturday's ceremonies to open the 102nd American Bowling Congress Championships Tournament, a United States Bowling Congress event. He was elected to the ABC Hall of Fame in 1970 and to the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame in 1975.

    In a 1999 Bowling Magazine poll to select the 20 best bowlers of the 20th century, Weber earned more votes than any other player. In 1970, he was runner-up to former Budweisers' teammate Don Carter in a "Greatest Bowler of All-Time" survey. He was elected to the Bowling Magazine All-America first-team 11 times.

    Weber won his lone ABC Tournament title in 1962 as a member of Classic team champion Carter Gloves. He had 19 other ABC Tournament top 10 finishes, including third place in the 1969 Masters. He was scheduled to compete in his 58th consecutive ABC Tournament on March 12 when he would have added to his 109,745 overall pinfall, second only to Joe Norris on the all-time list.

    No bowler spanned decades of superior performance better than the Indianapolis native. Weber burst onto the bowling scene in the 1950s with the famed Budweisers of St. Louis and won major titles in nearly every portion of the United States. As a charter member of the PBA, he set records which may never be broken, including winning three consecutive PBA titles twice and cashing in 72 consecutive PBA tournaments. A victory in a PBA Midwest Regional Senior event last September made him the only professional bowler in history to win titles in six decades.

    The three-time Bowling Writers Association of America Bowler of the Year (1961, 1963, 1965) earned four All-Star championships and teamed with Ray Bluth to win four Bowling Proprietors' Association of America national doubles crowns. He also was a member of six national BPAA team champions.

    Weber earned 26 regular and six senior PBA titles spanning five decades from 1959 to 1992. He was the PBA Player of the Year in 1965.

    Beyond his stunning resume of accomplishments on the lanes, Weber was considered bowling's greatest ambassador. He promoted the sport in places such as on an airplane, on a beach and through numerous appearances on David Letterman's shows. Much of his time on the road was spent through his half-century affiliation with AMF Bowling Worldwide Inc.

    In addition to his wife, Juanita, Weber is survived by sons Rich, John and Pete, daughter Paula Darmon and their families. His body will be cremated and there will be no memorial service. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame.


    Dick Weber dies at 75

    By Jim Dressel, Bowlers Journal International

    Bowling lost its greatest ambassador when Dick Weber passed away in his sleep Sunday night. He was 75.

    Weber was the face of bowling to generations, and was its first true television star. When "Pro Bowlers Tour" owned Saturday afternoon television, Weber appeared often, and the class he exhibited - whether in the winner's circle or after losing a match -- made him a role model to untold millions.

    Weber made a special appearance at the opening ceremonies of the American Bowling Congress Championships Tournament in Baton Rouge on Saturday night, along with fellow Hall of Famer Bill Lillard.

    Weber's wife, Juanita, said he had no pain, but was having breathing problems. She called 911, and paramedics were there in a few minutes, but by then, Dick was gone.

    Juanita said that Dick will be cremated, and that there will be no service. "He went to all those funeral services, like for Eddie Elias, etc., and he said he didn't want that," she said. "I don't know if I could take that, either.

    "We'll miss him, but we'll all miss him," she added. "Dick loved you all, everybody, and I think that emotion was returned in kind." Juanita added that, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, Dick's favorite charity.


    Memories - Dick Weber always put bowling first and that's why he was No. 1

    By Dick Evans

    In a sad way, it was almost fitting that if Dick Weber had to die while still young at heart that it happened on Valentine's Day. For you see, if anything has become self evident since his unexpected death is the fact that Dick Weber loved life, his family, bowling and his friends.

    You can debate about who was the best bowler - Don Carter, Earl Anthony, Walter Ray Williams or Dick Weber - but there is no debate about who loved bowling the most - Weber wins hands down.

    For one reason or another, Carter and Anthony spent a lot of their spare time playing golf after their pro bowling careers ended. Everyone knows Williams would rather pitch horse shoes than roll bowling balls.

    None of the other top four showed up year after year at the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame ceremonies ... only Weber. Only Weber volunteered his time to serve on the ABC Hall of Fame committees year after year. None happily dealt with the press week after week, year after year. I know, because I was there.

    One time at 2 a.m. in the Showboat Casino in Las Vegas I asked Dick Weber to meet me in the coffee shop at 7 a.m. so that I could do an interview and meet my early (East Coast time) deadline for my Miami Herald story.

    At 7:01 a.m., Weber showed up with a smile on his face and astute answers for my questions. All he asked was that I buy him a cup of coffee. There have been so many other personal incidents since I met him at the 1962 National All-Star Tournament on Miami Beach.

    The first time I interviewed him was after he shot a 300-game (a big deal in those days) and the second time after he won the first of four All-Star titles. Not long later AMF called and asked me to fly over to Tampa and do some publicity work for AMF's Baseball Players Bowling Tournament.

    Dick Weber was there and asked me to help him with his speech since at that time he did not feel comfortable behind a microphone. When future baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson won, Weber became relaxed behind the mike and told it like it was in those days - that Frank Robinson and other black baseball players were treated like second class citizens during spring training in Florida.

    Then Weber won additional National All-Star titles in Kansas City, Philadelphia and Lansing, Mich., and I was there to interview after each victory. On the side he thanked me for helping him win in Lansing since I had talked the sponsoring Bowling Proprietors Association of America into splitting the final 24 into two 12-player fields, much like the National Football League used.

    Weber fell into the easier division and he knew that factor played a role in his finals victory over Bo Burton, the man he replaced behind the mike on the ABC telecasts when Bo made the telecasts. Dick Weber had a fun way of needling you over decisions.

    One year the BPAA convention was coming to town and Brunswick, featuring Don Carter, and AMF, featuring Dick Weber, wanted to run learn-to-bowl clinics with The Miami Herald. Since The Herald had a larger circulation than the Miami News, I got to make the decision - AMF and Weber or Brunswick and Carter.

    I picked Brunswick, not knowing that AMF had arranged to end its clinic sessions with a fun tournament at Bowling Palace that would be televised live by a local TV channel. So what happens ... Eddie Lubanski bowls two perfect games on TV with a lot of proprietors sitting in the stands and many others watching their TV screens at the Fontainbleau Hotel.

    Weber never let me forget what a dumb writer I was when it came to picking clinic partners. To be honest, Dick Weber became irritated with me after I wrote a story about his youngest son Pete's troubles with drugs an alcohol on tour as a youngster. Dick told me he wasn't going to speak to me again. I told him I didn't blame him.

    But Dick Weber couldn't hold a grudge and six months later was speaking to me and giving me interviews again. One time I asked him at a press conference in Miami what was he averaging. He got a twinkle in his eye and replied, "at my age, about once a week." Then he laughed and the place exploded with laughter.

    And I never will forget when Earl Anthony won the AMF Dick Weber Classic at Tamarac Lanes. Weber was scheduled to give the championship check. Instead of giving the traditional congratulations speech and then handing over the check, Weber chuckled, made a face like he was yawning and said "ho hum another win for Earl ... doesn't this get boring?" The audience cracked up ... ditto for Earl.

    But it was not all smiles and jokes. I was serving as media director for the PBA Senior Tour back in the early 1990s and we had a Florida stop at Lady Lake, which later was renamed the Villages. We all were staying in nearby Leesburg and that morning I noticed Weber eating by himself at the counter.

    When people walked by and said hello, Weber would nod instead of giving his traditional warm greeting. I asked him if he was OK, and he said that he had a terrible headache. He was in third place going into the final day and apparently was willing to kill himself if he could pull off a victory.

    I kept my eye on him as he warmed up, his approach was erratic and his delivery wild. Several time he almost fell and he constantly was off balance at the foul line. I went down to the lanes and suggested that he should withdraw, told him that he looked terrible and was bowling like he had suffered a stroke.

    He told me no, but wanted me to go to the candy machine and buy him a Hershey bar. The candy bar did not solve his problems. But he refused to withdraw and I continued to bring him candy bars. Believe it or not, he averaged 198 in that round and fell only two spots to fifth headed into the night round.

    Fortunately his oldest son, Rich Weber who was assistant tournament director at the time, convinced his father to go to the Leesburg hospital between shifts and they wound up hospitalizing Dick for almost a week after they determined he indeed had suffered a minor stroke. Dick Weber was more irritated that he could not finish than he was about his own health issue.

    In San Francisco, I may have cost Dick Weber a chance to make the ESPN telecast. Dick was sitting second going into the final night round and a San Francisco TV station wanted to do a live interview with him at 6:35. Unfortunately, practice was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. and the tournament director would not delay the start of the practice session in order for Dick to do the interview.

    I told Dick about the dilemma and he replied, "the bowling tournament needs the exposure, so I will do the interview." He missed all of the practice session and quickly faded to eighth before rebounding and finishing sixth ... one spot shy of the telecast.

    One final memory that I think exemplifies his love of bowling came when I met Dick Weber at the old Denver airport. We were picked up by Gary Beck, who was promoting an upcoming PBA Senior tournament in the Denver area.

    Gary drove us immediately to Colorado Springs where Dick Weber spoke to a woman's club, fascinating the ladies with his bowling wit. Then it was on to a bowling center where he did press interviews and bowled some local favorites. Then it was on to another Colorado Springs bowling center and more interviews and bowling.

    By now it was about 8 p.m., but Gary had arranged one more interview round and bowling session in the Denver area. I was awed that possibly the greatest bowler in the world still was spry, funny and bubbly 12 hours after he had caught a plane from St. Louis.

    Dick Weber was like the bunny on the TV commercial ... he never ran down. And he never met a person he didn't like. That was until we got back to the hotel around midnight near the Denver airport where Gary Beck had booked us two rooms. I got mine, they had no room for Dick Weber.

    The nearest room they could find for Dick at that time of the night was about eight miles away. Once he found out that my room had two beds, he asked if he could stay with me. Of course I said yes. It was a tough night on both of us ... I couldn't sleep because he snored and he couldn't sleep because I had to get up and go to the bathroom every hour on the hour.

    At 7:30 in the morning, Gary Beck picked us up for round two in the Denver area. I looked like I had just gone 10 rounds with Ali and Weber looked and acted like he couldn't wait to shake more hands and throw more bowling balls. It must have been the thin air at that mile-high city.

    From the number of Emails and calls I got after my early morning story Monday about Dick Weber's death, I am certain that there are thousands and thousands of people out there who could offer other stories that would exemplify what an extraordinary human being this "man for all ages" truly was.

    I have always loved the newspaper game, but my love was puppy love compared to Dick Weber's lifetime love affair with bowling and people associated with bowling. I don't know if Dick Weber died a rich man, but he certainly enriched thousands upon thousands of lives during his 75 years here on earth.

    The next time you hear any thunder, look up at the sky ... there's a good chance Dick Weber will be telling the angels to set up some more pins on the next lane.

    Weber was king of life in a glorious slow lane

    Re-published courtesy of Charlotte Observer
    By Ken Garfield - Published February 16, 2005

    A murmur of regret from 50-somethings like me was heard across America's breakfast tables Tuesday morning.

    Dick Weber died.

    For the younger crowd whose life was never brightened by bowling, his name probably doesn't mean much. That's why his unexpected passing at his home in St. Louis on Sunday at age 75 was noted with just a brief in most sports sections.

    The death of an all-time sports favorite to many of us was reported in 27 words on Page 6C in Tuesday's Observer, below an item on pitcher Jorge Sosa signing for $650,000 with Tampa Bay.

    But those 27 words about Dick Weber were enough to take a lot of guys my age back to our boyhood, back to when our Saturdays were built around watching bowling on ABC-TV.

    We might have gone outside and played Little League Baseball or pickup basketball Saturday morning. But Saturday afternoons were reserved for the Pro Bowlers Tour on ABC. A lot of you are smiling at the memory: Chris Schenkel was the announcer, and guys like Dick Weber, Carmen Salvino, Don Carter and Johnny Petraglia were the stars -- men in crewcuts who didn't talk trash or hold out on their agents' advice. Into the 1970s came Charlotte's own George Pappas.

    Weber was the star of stars. A PBA charter member when the league began in 1958, he dominated the 1960s, winning 17 of his 26 titles. And he did it with a quiet grace you don't see much in sports today.

    They just rolled strikes in bowling alleys in towns we had barely heard of -- heroes of an era fading fast in the rearview mirror.

    When I channel surf now, I'll occasionally pause to watch a bowling tournament on ESPN. In search of ratings and lost glory, a lot of today's bowlers look like models and act like Terrell Owens after he scores a touchdown. One superstar, Pete Weber, is famous for pointing to his crotch and screaming to the crowd after a strike.

    He's Dick's son.

    I never watch for long.

    It was tough doing my regular job covering religion Tuesday. Each time I passed a buddy my age in the newsroom, I'd stop and ask him if he watched bowling growing up, and if he knew Dick Weber had died. Everyone had a memory to share, a good memory.

    A few years back, a Harvard professor wrote a massive book that many college students are required to read in which he proposes that the decline of civic engagement in America is reflected in the decline in league bowling. People bowl, Robert D. Putnam writes in "Bowling Alone," but they don't bowl in leagues like they did back when Dick Weber was King of the Lanes.

    So this morning, I'm thinking about the days growing up on Long Island in the 1960s, when our dads would get off the train from Manhattan, take off their suits, put on bowling shirts with their names stitched above the pocket and head to smoke-filled lanes to roll strikes, smoke cigarettes, drink beer and laugh like there was no tomorrow.

    And I'm thinking of Dick Weber and all that his passing evokes.

    Ken Garfield
    Ken Garfield, 51, is The Observer's religion editor. The Saturday mornings of his youth were spent in a bowling league, where $1.35 got you three games, bowling shoes and a Ring Ding.


    Some final comments about Dick Weber's fabled bowling life

    By Dick Evans

    Some stories are easy to write and your fingers know it and sometimes stories are difficult to write and your heart knows it. This one is tough and that's why I have been procrastinating before writing my final tribute to Dick Weber's 75 years on earth.

    I last saw and talked to Dick Weber on the night of Saturday, Feb. 12, at the beautiful Baton Rouge River Center before opening ceremonies of the final American Bowling Congress National Championship Tournament.

    After chatting a few minutes Weber moved on to work the room ... everybody at the cocktail party was either an acquaintance or friend of the legendary Dick Weber by the time we were called to the lanes.

    By definition most were probably an acquaintance but after talking with Dick Weber, whose beauty was that he didn't know he was a legend, most probably felt he/she was a life-long friend.

    And as I looked out the glass window of the River Center I could see the mighty Mississippi flowing just 100 yards away. For a fleeting second, Dick Weber looked as indestructible as 'Old Man River."

    I was wrong ... Dick Weber was dead 34 hours later.

    When I returned to Baton Rouge March 14-18 for the final ABC Convention, everyone still was paying homage to Dick Weber's life and the mighty Mississippi still was flowing south toward New Orleans. Dick Weber was gone, but he wasn't forgotten.

    The new United States Bowling Congress did a heart warming tribute to Dick Weber during the Hall of Fame ceremony that resulted in many teary eyes. And Bill Vint, one of the elite bowling journalists in the country, shed some tears when recalling fun bowling bets he had made with Weber at tournaments.

    I don't think I can ever remember a Bowling Writers Association of America convention session so quiet and so many people dabbing their eyes after Bill Vint's emotional words. Little wonder that the proposal to rename the BWAA Bowler of the Year award the BWAA's Dick Weber Male Bowler of the Year award passed unanimously.

    AMF, the company that helped make Dick Weber a household bowling name around the world, did itself proud on short notice. In the bowling package that AMF's Mike Anderson passed out to the writers was a picture of a graying and smiling Dick Weber with this beautiful inscription:

    'On a scale of 1 to 10, a 300.
    'Dick Weber, 1929-2005.
    'Athlete of rare gifts. Ambassador for bowling worldwide. A human being of warmth, generosity and good humor. A partner with AMF for over 48 years. Dick Weber was good as it gets. We all will miss him.'

    That tribute made me extra eager to see what AMF will do during its 'Tribute to Dick Weber' during the Bowling Proprietors Association of America's Bowl Expo in Orlando June 13-16. I only hope that his family will be on hand for the Dick Weber ceremony.

    I wonder how many people - even his friends - knew that AMF named a bowling ball after him and ran several national tournaments that carried his name or that he once owned a successful bowling center in St. Louis. Probably not many because Dick Weber never was about promoting himself ... only the sport of bowling.

    During my long daily newspaper career of covering almost every sport known to man (or woman), I saved only one souvenir - an AMF pin signed by Dick Weber after he just had won the 1962 BPAA National All-Star Tournament at the Miami Beach Convention Center. That was the first of Weber's four National All-Star titles and the first major bowling tournament I had covered for 11 straight days.

    I have no idea why I saved it, maybe my subconscious knew Dick Weber was going to be a great bowler or he was going to become a cherished friend. My ex-wife somehow figured that I stepped out of character when I saved that pin so I guess out of spite she gave my cherished pin to our 4- year-old son and told him to roll, or throw it, up and down our garage before we divorced. Unfortunately, he did a great job.

    No matter, I never parted with that battered old bowling pin taken from the actual pit of the televised finals and still display it along with my ABC and PBA Hall of Fame plaques in my home.

    I was looking at it and smiling (I used to call a young pencil-thin Dick Weber the only needle I had ever seen) when I opened a Feb. 18 letter from his wife Juanita that gave all the details of Dick's death. It was accurate information that I thought people would want to know so I called and asked permission to print portions of the letter.

    Juanita said yes, so I will share her words (she has beautiful penmanship) with you:

    "Rich (their oldest son and a close friend since we both worked on the PBA Senior tour in the early 1990s) brought me another copy of another story you wrote about Dick. We sure are enjoying them.

    "Dick told me Sunday afternoon (after his return from Baton Rouge) that he was going to Email you and two other people in charge of next year's tourney ceremonies to let them know he liked your ideas.

    "Dick died officially at 5:34 a.m. on Monday morning (Feb. 14) of 'cardiac arrhythmia, due to congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. Actually 5:34 is when 911 sent the paramedics and the policemen They were so helpful and stayed with me until the kids started to arrive.

    "Dick was gone in less than a minute and never opened his eyes from sleep.

    "We all just can't thank you enough for your many kindness and considerations - even before this happened.

    "Love, Juanita, Rich, Paula, John and Pete."

    I am sure many other people and writers received similar letters because Dick Weber's family also has a touch of class.


    BPAA, PBA and USBC to pay special homage to Dick Weber's life

    Readers write about the death of an icon; and a final funny story about Dick Weber at the 0ld BPAA National All-Star event in Philly - By Dick Evans

    Over the years I came to the realization that bowlers talked a good game but seldom took time to put their complaints or praise down on paper. The communications world has changed thanks to the Internet, and so have bowlers.

    I have been besieged by comments from Internet readers responding to my two previous stories about the legendary Dick Weber and his death early Sunday morning. That was impressive, but so was the quick response by the Bowling Proprietors Association of America, the Professional Bowlers Association and the brand new United States Bowling Congress.

    PBA Commissioner Fred Schreyer and CEO Steve Miller lauded Weber's bowling life in an Internet release and according to John Jowdy you can expect special homage to be paid to one of the PBA's founding members during Sunday's telecast.

    The United States Bowling Congress also jumped into action and is planning special ceremonies honoring Dick Weber's fabulous ABC career during the March 14-18 USBC Convention week in Baton Rouge, La.

    I called Rich Weber, the oldest of Dick's four children (John, Pete and Paula) and asked they're going to continue the tradition of a Weber family team competing in ABC (now USBC) national tournament. Rich did not sound enthusiastic about bowling in Baton Rouge without his father being there to kid with fellow bowlers, sign autographs and generally pump up his clan team.

    Hopefully time will reduce some of the keen hurt and sons John and Rich and other family members will be competing under the Weber banner in Baton Rouge. I don't think Dick Weber would have wanted it any other way. He was big on many things and one was TRADITION.

    Weber was the feature attraction during opening ceremonies of the national tournament in Baton Rouge Saturday night and both Jeff Boje, President of the BPAA, and Roger Dalkin, CEO of USBC, said how they would forever cherish their conversations with Dick Weber Saturday night.

    "It was truly a shock when I heard the news," Dalkin said in an Email. "I only wished I had talked to him more on Saturday, but sometimes we take life for granted."

    AMF and Dick Weber have been an item for almost 50 years and AMF is not taking his contributions for granted. A tribute honoring the life and career of Dick Weber is being planned June 29 during the BPAA's Bowl Expo in Orlando. The general session will be sponsored by AMF Bowling Worldwide.

    "As both a bowling icon and a former BPAA member (in St. Louis), Dick Weber will be forever regarded as bowling's global ambassador," said Boje. Before the BPAA announcement was made, I spoke to Rich Weber about Bowl Expo and at that time he did not sound thrilled with the idea of making a trip to Orlando. Again, hopefully time will ease the pain for the family.

    Here are a few of the Emails I received concerning my two earlier stories -- the first about Dick Weber's shocking death and the second about his fabulous life on tour.

    Bo Burton, former ABC TV announcer: "I grew up with Dick, competed with him, did numerous exhibitions with him both on and off the AMF staff. He was my chosen 'backup' for me at ABC-TV and was all any man could hope to be. He will be missed."

    Sylvia Broyles, last president of the WIBC: "I knew Dick was a great ambassador for our game and I respected him for that. However, I now realize his love of he game went beyond his own glory. I did enjoy being around him at the BWAA conventions. He will be missed."

    Roger Wiemer: "You said it for all of us. We can't know how much Dick has done for the business as well as the sport of BOWLING. He was an icon that can't be replaced."

    Mary DeBarbrie Gardner, former pro bowler/proprietor: "Dick Weber was a man among men. I was lucky enough to work with him in New York in 1975. The bowling industry has lost a great ambassador."

    Charlene Larson, bowler: "Your article was a wonderful tribute to Dick and the great sport of bowling. Thanks so much for your words."

    Gene Chilson, former ABC association president in Miami: "It was sad reading about Dick Weber, he was such a personable guy."

    Sandy Finkelstein, a man of many bowling talents: "As usual you were quick and accurate with your reporting. We all will miss bowling's true ambassador. When mentioning past losses (Joe Norris and Earl Anthony), Don Johnson's recent death (May, 2003) must be noted. He was another star that truly loved bowling. God sure is starting from the top."

    Barbara Chrisman, Storm bowling balls: "As you stated, Dick Weber was a great bowler and a unique human being."

    Herbert Bickel, world recognized editor of the Bowlingdigital Web page in Germany: "What bad news. I was shocked. I met Dick a couple times and I always enjoyed talking with him. What a nice gentleman."

    Brenda Jowdy, an editor of John Jowdy's Bowl Execution: "Dick Weber's death surely will be the biggest loss to bowling people than anyone in history. I am so happy he died at home."

    Mark Jensen, chairman of the USBC Hall of Fame Task Force: "God bless Dick Weber. There is no way to replace a man like that. My life was so much richer because of his influence."

    Beth Marshall, former PBA media director: "How devastating. Anyone who ever met Dick was touched by his love of the sport. He had such an easy going personality - truly an amazing man."

    Paula Carter, WIBC Hall of Famer and wife of Don Carter: "I couldn't breathe when reading your story. Dick was such a great and true friend of Don."

    Hazel McLeary, a WIBC and Canadian Hall of Famer: "The story of Dick Weber's tour life brought tears to my eyes."

    Donna Phillips Zuben, who popped up on the national bowling scene as a teenager at the old All-Star in Philadelphia: "Beautiful, humorous and moving article about a great gentleman and his tour life. You did him justice and I'm sure he is smiling at the wonderful tribute you paid him. He will be missed by everyone."

    In closing this story about how people admired Dick Weber, please allow me to repeat one of the most humorous incidents I can remember while covering professional bowling.

    We were in the Philadelphia Convention Center and Dick Weber was bowling Jim St. John for the 1965 National All-Star Tournament title. In those days, for the national TV show they televised the final game of the three-game women's championship series and then the final two games of the men's three-game series.

    The BPAA had set up long tables and typewriters for each reporter on the lanes, right behind the bowlers. Weber and St. John were bowling their opening game right in front of my typewriter so I was paying close attention to their taut deal.

    About the fifth frame, Weber did something seldom done in those days - he re-racked the pins before his strike attempt. So what happens, he leaves the 3-10 split and then fails to convert and falls behind in the match.

    Weber went on to win the third of his four BPAA National All-Star titles and was being interviewed by the late Sam Levine for Radio Mutual when I walked past and asked "Dick will you please come down and see me when you get finished talking with Sam so I can question you about that questionable re-rack in the first game?"

    Weber made a funny face and said in jest, "Jesus Christ, why did you bring that up?" I walked away without replying. A few minutes later Weber walked down to where I was typing away and we started talking. It wasn't long before Sam Levine came by and said, "Hey Weber, here's the part of my radio tape where you mentioned Jesus Christ" and handed Weber a small piece of tape.

    Without looking up or missing a key on his typewriter, the reporter from Columbus, Ohio, sitting next to me mumbled: "Dick Weber always has been a name dropper." With that, Dick Weber broke up laughing.

    He was a man not afraid to laugh at himself and that is not common among great athletes or common men. In the old days, they taught a young reporter to write "30" at the bottom of his story to signify the "END."

    The whole bowling world can smile today because Dick Weber lived on earth 75 years ... fortunately his wit, charm, sincerity, accomplishments and grass roots love of bowling and people will live forever.

    He makes me smile just thinking about his personality and life.

    "30"