Calling the Shots: A celebration for Baldwin

Tom Baldwin is experiencing a wide range of emotions at this point of the school year. With less than a week left before the final day, he is feeling sad, but excited.

A new page is turning in the 78-year-old's life. Who could blame him for getting a little choked up, or even being wrapped in nostalgia?

Baldwin, the former Costa Mesa High football coach, is in his final year at the school, as he is retiring after roughly 49 years as a teacher.

Perhaps, this is more of a news or education story, since Baldwin will continue to coach the boys' and girls' golf teams at Costa Mesa. But if you know Baldwin, you'll realize he'll always belong on the sports page.

Many in the community continue to call him, "Coach." His former players certainly refer to him by that title.

Many of those former players plan to honor Coach's career on July 1. It's a retirement party for Baldwin. It's not only about Baldwin as a teacher, but it's also about his time as a coach.

Now you can understand why Baldwin is excited. He's planning to see many of his former players, some might even show up by surprise.

The party starts at 5 p.m. at the Neighborhood Community Center in Costa Mesa. Baldwin has been getting the word out in search of former players and students who would like to come. If you're one of them, you can RSVP with his daughter, Tina Lievanos, (714) 658-0090 or Tom's better half, Carol, (714) 979-2279.

I believe 300 people are expected. Yours truly is among the fortunate to be invited. I also hear that my former boss, and former Daily Pilot Sports Editor Roger Carlson is expected to be there, an extra treat for me.

We'll all be there to honor a great man, who influenced many lives.

With Baldwin being 78 it seems now would be a good time to retire. But he could probably go a few more years if it weren't for his health.

Two years ago, doctors discovered a rare disease within Baldwin's intestines. He continued to teach and coach. What did you expect from a former Army platoon leader in the Korean War?

This past school year proved difficult for Baldwin, with the doctor visits and pain he experienced.

There's a hard mass blocking his intestines. It's a disease called mesenteric panniculitis. The mass can't be removed because it is actually part of the intestines.

"If I didn't have the surgeries and the health issues, I would keep going," Baldwin said Friday. "It's been a little hard to do."

But Baldwin is OK with retiring. He is excited about seeing people from the past at the party. He said he's already had the opportunity to speak with some over the phone.

He's known as, "Coach," but when Baldwin talks about his former players and students, he says, "my kids."

He chuckles about how silly that might sound when he thinks of the first students he taught.

"They're now 68 years old and they're my kids," he says.

Baldwin began teaching in 1957. A former quarterback/defensive back at Santa Ana College in 1954, he later began as a substitute teacher at the school. He also played at Long Beach State, where he was a graduate assistant for football and track and field.

He taught at Santa Ana High, where he coached football. He was also a coach at Santa Ana Valley. He was at Costa Mesa for 26 years.

Baldwin didn't teach every year since 1957. He took some time off to work with the Southern California Sun of the short-lived World Football League and he also worked as an NFL scout.

He was the head football coach at Santa Ana High from 1965 to 1974, guiding some great teams and working with some big-time talent.

Isaac Curtis, who starred in the NFL as a receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, played for Baldwin from 1966 to '68.

There were so many other players, some short and skinny, but Baldwin still managed to get the best out of every one of them.

Baldwin hopes many of them will be there July 1 for his retirement party. After all, more than the game, he cherishes the people who have been in his life.

"What I'm going to miss the most about teaching is the relationships with the kids," Baldwin said. "I'm still going to coach, but it's not quite the same."

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