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Jeanine Duncan fondly remembered at service

Wife of ex-Cards coach, mother of two players, died June 6 at age 64

ST. LOUIS -- Jeanine Duncan, who played the role of baseball matriarch to perfection, was honored in a touching memorial service on Saturday morning at Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis.

Duncan, 64, died on June 6 at her home in Kimberling City, Mo., after a 22-month battle with brain cancer.

Jeanine was married to Dave Duncan, longtime pitching coach with the Cardinals (1996-2011) and A's (1986-95). Duncan, 67, played 11 years in the Major Leagues with Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland and Boston.

Their sons, Chris and Shelley, also played in the Majors. Chris, 32, who hit 55 homers and drove in 175 runs during five years with the Cardinals, is a sports talk radio fixture in St. Louis. Shelley, 33, is with the Tampa Bay Rays' Triple-A club in Durham, N.C. He amassed 43 homers and 144 RBIs over the first seven years of his career.

Outgoing and vivacious, Jeanine served as the perfect complement to her more quiet, business-like husband. She fought her illness with style and grace and never let the health problems dampen her enthusiasm for life. Jeanine was diagnosed with Stage IV glioblastoma in August 2011. Dave immediately took a leave of absence to be with his wife.

Yet Jeanine insisted that he return to the team two months later to join the Cardinals' playoff run, which netted them an 11th World Series championship.

"I want you to be in uniform," Jeanine told her husband.

Jeanine literally ordered Dave to return to the club during crunch time and both of them played key roles in the World Series triumph, according to then-manager and family friend Tony La Russa.

"She deserves a lot of credit," La Russa said. "She said, 'The rest of the family can handle me. You go do what you're meant to do.'

"She played a significant and tangible role."

La Russa, who calls Dave Duncan, "the brother I never had," gave a stirring 17-minute eulogy at the service, which was attended by an estimated 400 mourners. La Russa said Jeanine had the ability to "lighten up a room with her presence."

La Russa also recalled visiting Jeanine in hospital. He went there along with several others to try and cheer her up. But in the end, it worked the other way around.

"She was smiling, laughing and ended up making everyone else in the room feel better," La Russa said.

Despite undergoing chemotherapy, Jeanine, with help from her sons, was able to make the four-hour drive to St. Louis to attend the Cardinals' Game 7 triumph over the Rangers in 2011.

Dave Duncan stepped down a few months following the World Series to resume care of his wife. He stayed by her side and was the leader of what Jeanine called, "Team Jeanine," a large support group that helped her through the chemotherapy treatments.

Former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter attended Saturday's service as well as former St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen. St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak and team chairman and CEO William DeWitt Jr. were also present, along with numerous members of the organization.

Jeanine Duncan was born July 23, 1948, in Kansas City. She met Dave during Spring Training when he was with the Indians. She was a college student at the time.

Chris Duncan has also been diagnosed with glioblastoma. He underwent surgery on Oct. 10, 2012, and looks to be on the way to a full recovery.

The Cathedral Basilica was the location of a memorial service for Cardinals Hall of Fame legend Stan Musial just six months earlier.

Steve Overbey is a contributor to
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