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Henderson’s passing reminds us of baseball’s mortality

Dave Henderson is all smiles while signing for A's fans in 2000.

Dave Henderson is all smiles while signing for A’s fans in 2000.

I got a chance to connect with some of the guys I grew up with Sunday.

At the other end of the phone were Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Sandy Alderson, Terry Steinbach and Tony La Russa.

This isn’t a case of dropping names here. These are some of the guys I talked to after the news came out that Dave Henderson, center fielder par excellence for the A’s from 1988-93 had died in Seattle at 57 of a massive heart attack.

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Teammates salute Dave Henderson, dead too soon at 57

Rickey Henderson (24) Dave Stewart and Dave Henderson (42).

Rickey Henderson (24) Dave Stewart and Dave Henderson (42).

Dave Henderson’s ever-present gap-toothed grin symbolized the joy with which he lived, and that’s what teammates remembered Sunday upon the news that the longtime A’s center fielder died of a massive heart attack in Seattle. He was 57.

“I never saw him have a bad day,’’ first baseman Mark McGwire said. `He’d strike out, and he’d come back to the dugout flashing that gap-toothed grin. He loved to play the game. He was a beautiful man.’’

Henderson joined the A’s in 1988 as just another player in a massive roster reorganization orchestrated by general manager Sandy Alderson, but as the former A’s general manager and current Mets’ GM said, “he was incredibly important to the run of success we had in those years.’’

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ALDS Game 5 pressure on shoulders of Oakland organization given its history, not the A’s players

The A’s have been very good at deflecting pressure, putting one foot in front of the other and moving on a very orderly path through the 2013 season.

Does all that change now, with the season down to one game?

They won’t want to admit it, but yes it does.

Just not so much for the players. Most of them went through the disappointment of losing in Game 5 of the 2012 playoffs to Detroit and Justin Verlander, and they know the obstacle the Tigers are.

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