ST. LOUIS -- Chris Duncan, a member of the Cardinals' 2006 World Series championship team who later carved a second career as a local sports-talk radio personality, has entered another round of treatment in his fight against brain cancer.That announcement was delivered this week by Duncan's longtime co-host, Anthony Stalter,
ST. LOUIS -- Chris Duncan, a member of the Cardinals' 2006 World Series championship team who later carved a second career as a local sports-talk radio personality, has entered another round of treatment in his fight against brain cancer.
That announcement was delivered this week by Duncan's longtime co-host, Anthony Stalter, who informed listeners on WXOS (101.1 FM) that Duncan would be taking a permanent leave of absence from the station.
The Cardinals followed with a tweet of support for Duncan's "courageous fight." Former manager and longtime friend of the Duncan family, Tony La Russa, did as well.
The son of Major League pitching coach Dave Duncan, Chris Duncan has been battling cancer since 2012. His diagnosis came a little more than a year after his mother, Jeanine, was also diagnosed with glioblastoma. She passed away in June 2013 at the age of 64.
Duncan, 37, underwent surgery to have his tumor removed shortly after the initial diagnosis and then returned to the microphone at WXOS, where he joined Stalter as host of an early afternoon show dubbed "The Turn" in 2013. Duncan remained in that job until last spring, when he stepped aside to fight again. The tumor had returned the previous fall.
The station has kept Duncan's chair open during his absence.
"I've thought a lot about Dunc over the past year, and seeing everyone's comments about what he meant to them personally has been emotional," Stalter said. "Make no mistake though, that guy is a warrior. He set his mind on becoming a big leaguer and eventually a World Series champion. He accomplished both. When his playing career was over, he set out to become a radio and TV star and did that as well. He kicked cancer's [butt] the first time and continues to fight daily despite the tumor's stubbornness to go away. While that tumor has robbed him of some of his passions, it'll never take away Dunc's drive or positivity."
Duncan debuted with the Cardinals in 2005 and had his most productive run with the team from 2006-07. He slugged .527 over 217 games in those two seasons and reinvented himself as an outfielder to earn more playing time. He won a World Series ring alongside his dad in '06.
Injuries ended his career after five seasons, but Duncan swiftly -- and adeptly -- transitioned into a career in radio that fit his boisterous and gregarious personality well. He joined WXOS as a baseball insider in 2011 before moving into a more permanent role.
"When he was a player, he wasn't quotable and rarely spoke to the media," Stalter said. "I came to find out that was by design and something that spoke to Dunc's character. When he played, he always felt as though it was appropriate for Albert [Pujols] or Jim Edmonds or Scott Rolen to speak for the team. He never felt as though that was his place, which is admirable."
Once Duncan found his voice, though, the fit was obvious.
"Not every former athlete that gets into media turns out to be Chris Duncan and Brad Thompson," Stalter said. "Some show up and truly believe they can get by on what they knew from their playing days. Dunc worked at it. … Just like Papa Dunc had his notebooks as a pitching coach, Dunc wrote everything out in freehand, and he had tons of notebooks filled with thoughts on the Cardinals that he would bring to the airwaves.
"Beyond the work ethic, Dunc was always uniquely himself. His self-deprecation always endeared him to a fan base that, let's be honest, grew frustrated with him at the end of his playing days in St. Louis. He would talk openly about his drops in the outfield, his trade to the Red Sox, Boston's decision to send him to [Triple-A] Pawtucket, in the motel with the sloped bed and broken TV.
"We're all self-conscious to some degree, but Dunc allowed himself to be vulnerable and, in turn, the audience showed great appreciation for his humility."
A former athlete who once tried to convince his radio co-host that he could beat a wolf in a wrestling match now finds himself in a much more serious and ongoing fight.
His wife, Amy, shared last fall that Duncan had relocated to Arizona to be closer to his father and brother, Shelley, as Chris continues undergoing treatment. The tumor has affected Duncan's speech and causes occasional seizures.
"Cancer doesn't fight fair," Stalter said. "But knowing Dunc, that tumor is in for the fight of its life, too."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.