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Monday May 20, 2024

Neil "Tinker" Voller (1955-1989)

"Tinker" is the heart of the Pirates Baseball club.  He epitomised what it means to be a Pirate - on and off the field.  Play the game hard, play the game fair - but make sure you have fun while doing it.  Be involved in what the club does - no matter what it is, or who else is involved.

The below was penned by Rod Wright, former Pirates player and good mate of Tinker and provides an insight into why and who.


It is an honour for me to write a few lines about our good mate and my only worry is that I can't do him justice - anyway here goes.

Tinker played baseball for Pirates from 1982 until 1989 mainly as a 3rd grade pitcher and infielder.  The perpetual trophy that honours Tinker has become an important award at ur Annual Presentation night.  The reason behind the trophy is very difficult to describe - it's something like the award to the "persion who demonstrates the right attitudes (on and off the field) that reflects the true spirit of baseball".  The game is the thing and our club's development and attitude to the game would thrill Tinker to bits.

His reputation goes on and on and this is despite the fact that only a few us (still playing) are left from those that ever met and knew him before he was prematurely killed in a car accident together with his father in the winter of the 1989 season.  It was unusual for him to miss a game of baseball and we were all stunned when news came through that he had lost his life on a trip to the country.

So what was so special about this bloke?

Wll he was one of a kind - a great jokster and feared sledger of all players, officials and umpires alike.  He was the first player at the ground on game day and quite often the last to leave for our trip to the Pub.  The same can also be said of the numerous drinking holes we were at over the years - first there, last carried out.  Tinker attended every function that Pirates had - no matter where or when.  He was fantastic with all the kids who hung around the games - whether it be buying something at the canteen for on of them or doing some baby sitting for a busy parent or just being the clown.

Tinker was the sort of guy that if something funny was going to happen, it would happen to him and there was always a witness around to remember it and pass it on.  the stories are too many to tell here, but you'll get the idea!

He told us this one about leaving the Thirroul Pub after a long session, forgetting to turn onto the road, mounting the gutter on the other side and falling off his motor bike.  When he tried to get back on, it fell on top of him, pinning him to the road and he couldn't lift it off.  It started to rain and eventually he was lit up with the headlights of an oncoming car.  he was waving his arms and yelling out to attract their attention only to find it was the police.  They questioned him at length as to whether he was riding the bike and he swore that he wasn't so they packed him and his bike into the paddy wagon and drove him home.  No problems for Tink!

We went on a number of trips as a club- two notables were to Moruya and Gosford and most of the stories are memorable although unprintable - Paul (Chubby) Meehan would be a good place to catch a few gems.  Ask him about FUADPAF.

On the trip to Moruya we went (early one day after one of these nights) to a local hockey game.  Next thing Tinker yells out to the umpire "What's the score?" the umpire sticks up two fingers to Tinker. Tink says, "Thanks ump - one all is it?"  The look on the umpires face said it all.  There are hunderds of others.

If anyone needed anything done, all they had to do was ask Tink and he'd do it - no questions asked and no thanks asked for.

In terms of talking at the ground, he made me look like I was quiet and I indeed still have a number of lines that I use that were stolen from "The master of the one liner".  One of his specials was after an opposition infielder had a bad day and made another mistake only to be hit by Tinker with "who do you think you are - Michael Jackson?"  Everyone was thinking what does that mean and then came the follow up - "You wear one glove and that is for no apparent reason."

The other one was "Throw in a couple of bananas and some Oranges and we'll really have a circus".

The holler of "Slooooooowwww it down for him, sloooooowwwwww it down" yelled at Steve Evans after a lightening strike still rings in batters', umpires' and spectators ears even after all these years.

The weekend after Tinker's death we played at port Kembla and it rained most of the day but when we had a minutes silence for Tinker before the first grade game, the clouds parted and the sun came streaming in.  I'm sure he was there organising the whole show - while just letting us know that he was watching to make sure that we knew that he was OK and sledging all around.  He would have wanted to make sure that Pirates continued to play hard and never give a sucker an even break.

It will be ten years this coming April (1999) and do you know I never found out what Tinker meant?  And I, amongst others, still miss him.