"I know now who was the best," says Pete. "Dad was the best. I've seen polls that said Don Carter, but it was Dad. He's done it the best and the longest. He's 55 now, and it still amazes me when he walks in, rolls a 170 or something, and gets all the attention."
Like most Gracefully Aging Immortals, Dick Weber, the only bowler to win PBA titles over four decades, still feels the magic from time to time, which is why he's back full-time on the summer tour. "I don't think I can win a lot of them," says Dick, "but I can win. I don't want to just be a figurehead out there." Whether he wins or loses, Weber, like Arnold Palmer, will mesmerize the masses. His son has charisma, too, although his is of a different sort.
Pete inherited his father's body—what there is of it. He stands 5'7" and weighs just 135 pounds, seven pounds more than what the 5'10" Dick says was his "fighting weight" 20 years ago. Beyond that, they don't look much like father and son. Still blond of hair, natty of dress and sunny of disposition, Dick has achieved the kind of enviable middle-aged elegance that rates an easy eight or nine on the Donahue scale.
There's a waiflike aspect to Pete. He parts his wavy hair down the middle, wears a wispy mustache, chain-smokes during competition and in general looks like a kid who might follow ZZ Top around the country. While Dick has soft, sparkling, smiling eyes, Pete's are deep, brooding, wintry. The TV cameras love to catch Pete from the front as he stares his big-hooking boomerang ball down the alley. His eyes open wide, almost demonically, "like something out of the weird movies," says Dick.
Pete and Dick seem dissimilar in action, too. Though Dick had what he calls "a bad Dutch-German temper," he usually kept it in check. Pete's temper has been as subtle as a gutter ball, running to swearing, kicking ball racks and shouting at himself. But Juanita says her husband was every bit as intense as Pete is.
"I never saw in Rich and John this kind of burning will," she says. "Their wives and family were important to them. But I can say in all honesty that if it came to a choice between bowling and family, Pete would've given up Dee Dee, just as Dick, as happy as we've been, would've given up Juanita."
Juanita remembers gathering her family around the set to watch Dick in one of his frequent television matches. "Dick might get five in a row, and as soon as he missed a strike Pete would get up and go out. 'Why watch?' he'd say. 'He can't get a 300 now.' " That was Pete—brash, a little arrogant, irresistible. Pete was never afraid to challenge the big boys to two-game matches for sodas at Dick Weber Lanes. Though of hummingbird size, he started using a 16-pound ball when he was 12, after which he rolled his first 300 game. His average climbed from around 185 to about 210. At 16 he debuted in an adult scratch league with a perfect game.
This was Pete, too: running around with older kids, cutting school, chugging beer, smoking some pot, getting into fights, doing almost anything for a couple of laughs and a good time. Pete quit McCluer North Senior High School late in his sophomore year (six months later he earned a general equivalency diploma) because all he ever wanted to do was bowl and party, party and bowl. When the rules were changed to allow high school graduates who had not yet turned 18 to join the tour, Pete became a 17-year-old pro in November 1979. The rule change was proposed, incidentally, by one Dick Weber, an executive board officer.
Pete broke through in 1982, winning two tournaments and a total of $90,540.
And in 1983 he broke down.