Tom Baldwin, former teacher and football coach at Costa Mesa High, dies at 86

Tom Baldwin, a former teacher and football coach at Costa Mesa High, died from complications from Parkinson’s disease on Tuesday, said Kirk Bauermeister, the executive director of secondary education at the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Baldwin was 86.

Baldwin led the Mustangs from 1984 to 1991, and again in 2004. He went a combined 28-62-1.

Baldwin taught at Costa Mesa for 26 years.

“He was actually my master teacher when I was doing my student teaching [at Costa Mesa in 1985],” said Bauermeister, who also coached football with Baldwin at the school. “As a young teacher, as a young coach, and as a young married man, too, he was a mentor for me in a lot of ways. I think I’m a better teacher, a better coach, a better husband, a better father, and a better friend because of the time I spent with Tom Baldwin. He was very influential in my life.”

Baldwin affected many during his 49 years as a high school teacher at Santa Ana, Santa Ana Valley and Costa Mesa. He retired from Costa Mesa as a teacher in 2010.

It was at Santa Ana where Baldwin made a name for himself. He coached the Saints from 1965-73.

In 1967, Baldwin guided Santa Ana to a 12-1 record and the CIF Southern Section Division AAAA finals at Anaheim Stadium. Santa Ana lost to rival Anaheim, 27-6, in front of 26,383 fans.

“He coached during the heyday of high school football [in Orange County],” Bauermeister said of Baldwin. “He had wars with Anaheim and [Coach] Clare Van Hoorebeke. When he was at Santa Ana, they played Anaheim and there would be 20,000 people in the stands. He coached Isaac Curtis, [one of the best running backs to play in the county who went on to play at Cal and San Diego State, and then star as a wide receiver in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals]. Tom had a very storied career, and he is probably more of a legend in Santa Ana than he is in Costa Mesa. He was beloved in both cities.

“As much of a legend as Tom was in football, football was never the most important thing to him. He was always about people. He was always about relationships. One of the things that really struck me early on is he would tell me, ‘It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Willys and Joes. It’s about people.’”

Baldwin is survived by his wife, Carol, and two children, Danny and Tina.

Bauermeister said there’s a plan to have a memorial service for Baldwin at the Santa Ana Bowl, where Baldwin coached many games. A date has not been set.

Twitter: @ByDCP