ST. LOUIS -- Dick Weber, one of bowling's first national stars and a three-time bowler of the year, died. He was 75.
Weber died Sunday night in his sleep at his home in the St. Louis area, said Steve James, retired executive director of the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame. A cause of death was not immediately known.
Weber had just returned from the opening of the congress' championships in Baton Rouge, La. James said he spent Sunday morning with Weber, who gave no indication he was ill.
In an e-mail to the Bowlers Journal, Weber's wife, Juanita, said Weber began having breathing problems Sunday night. Paramedics were unable to revive him.
"He was a lot bigger than the tour," James said Monday. "He was probably the best-known bowler worldwide."
Weber was one of bowling's first national TV stars, at a time when ABC broadcast bowling events on Saturday afternoons. He initially drew attention as a member of the Budweisers, a five-member St. Louis bowling team that held the record for highest team score for decades.
In 1958, he was a founding member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and he went on to win 26 PBA Tour events and six Senior Tour events. He was national bowler of the year three times, in 1961, 1963 and 1965.
"He's well-known and well-loved," said Jim Baltz, curator of the International Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis. "Everyone who knows him loves him. In competition, he's been amazingly successful. I don't think his contribution to the sport can be underestimated."
Weber, a skinny right-hander, was a postal worker in Indianapolis with a growing reputation as a top bowler when he was lured to St. Louis in 1955 to bowl with the Budweisers. The team, which included Ray Bluth, Don Carter, Pat Patterson and Tom Hennessey, had a record of 3,858 pins in one match that stood for more than three decades.
His son, Pete, is second on the career PBA money list. Both father and son are members of the PBA Hall of Fame. Dick Weber was also a member of the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.
Pete Weber is the defending U.S. Open champion and was scheduled to participate in this year's open, which began Sunday in North Brunswick, N.J. A PBA spokesman said Weber dropped out of the tournament to return to St. Louis to be with his family.
PBA Tour Commissioner Fred Schreyer called Dick Weber "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."