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Tom Revell, 62; Postal Worker Played in Negro Leagues

Tom Revell pitched for the Indianapolis Clowns and coached at UDC and Dunbar.
Tom Revell pitched for the Indianapolis Clowns and coached at UDC and Dunbar. (Family Photo)
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By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tom Revell, a retired U.S. Postal Service employee who died March 7 of a heart attack at Fairland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Silver Spring, could throw the high, hard one.

Blessed with a 90-mph fastball in high school, where he was a football and baseball phenomenon, he pitched professionally for the Indianapolis Clowns, coached the Bowie State University baseball team and was inducted into the Negro League Legends Hall of Fame in 2003. He was 62.

Thomas Clifton Revell, a longtime Silver Spring resident, was born in Selma, N.C., and grew up watching his father's semiprofessional team play throughout North Carolina. By the time the younger Revell was a senior at Selma's Richard B. Harrison High School in 1965, major league scouts were in the stands with their notebooks each time he pitched. They were excited about his intimidating fastball.

He signed in 1966 with the Indianapolis Clowns. The team originated in 1929 and combined circus-style silliness and high-caliber baseball. It was composed of African American and Cuban players who barnstormed the country until the 1970s.

The Clowns, which also played in the Negro American League, gave blacks an opportunity to play professionally during and after the long decades of baseball apartheid, which ended in 1947 when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Several Clowns players, including the legendary Satchel Paige and a young cross-handed slugger named Hank Aaron, ended up in the major leagues.

Mr. Revell pitched for the Clowns until 1969, when he was drafted into the Army. He pitched on Army teams in Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.

When his professional career ended, he and a brother founded the DC Cardinals, a semipro team; Mr. Revell was a player and coach. He also coached at several schools in the Washington area: the University of the District of Columbia in 1982, Dunbar High School in 1984 and 1985 and Bowie State University from 1987 to 1991.

He joined the Postal Service in the late 1960s as a letter-sorting operator and later worked as a distribution clerk at the Brentwood mail-processing facility. He retired in 1998.

He was a member of the Israel Baptist Church in the District and was a master mason at Fellowship Lodge 26 in the District.

His wife, Lessie Mayon Womack Revell, died in 2000.

Survivors include two children, Thomas C. Revell Jr. of Lanham and Tivona C. Revell of the District; five brothers, Henry Revell of Greensboro, N.C., and Bobby Revell, Frazier Revell, Mathew Revell and Kenneth Revell, all of Selma; four sisters, Jean Eason and Joyce Revell, both of Silver Spring, and Edith Revell and Bettie Revell, both of Selma; and a granddaughter.

At a 2003 gathering of retired Negro league players at Howard University, Mr. Revell reflected on an effort to create a Negro League Legends Hall of Fame in Northeast Washington. He had lost most of his memorabilia, he told The Washington Post, but the exhibits on display at Howard had helped revive his memories.

"It's something that my children's children will be able to see," he said. "They can say, 'My grandfather was a baseball player.' "


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