Wrigley’s charm suffers with construction, but upgrades were correct call

SHARE Wrigley’s charm suffers with construction, but upgrades were correct call
SHARE Wrigley’s charm suffers with construction, but upgrades were correct call

Way up atop the Jumbotron girders in left field, hard-hatted workers pound away with hammers.

The sounds ricochet through the Wrigley Field neighborhood like cannonballs dropped on frying pans.

The thought occurs: If they allowed this work to go on 24 hours a day, as was proposed by the Cubs, neighbors could be excused for going insane.

As it is, the men from Pepper Construction seem to be working as if their shorts are on fire. They’d better work that way.

That’s a lot of speed-pounding, a lot of speed-welding, my friends.

This $500 million redo of the antique park is going to take, what, four years? Five years? Another century?

It’s stupid in the planning and execution.

But needed? My God, it is.

Just comparing the new outfield girders — huge, solid, unrusted — with the flimsy framework of the rest of Wrigley Field is like comparing a new ocean liner with Noah’s Ark.

That the ancient roof over the infield seats hasn’t blown away like Dorothy’s house in a tornado or collapsed like the little pig’s straw hut seems amazing. (We won’t even bring up the insane netting below the upper deck to catch falling chunks of concrete. I’ve studied those nets in the past and felt that, in another life, they’d be fine for lake-dragging for perch or coho, but not smelt.)

Rumors have spread that Opening Night visitors at the Cardinals-Cubs game won’t be safe, which I find laughable. (Ask Steve Bartman about safety.) The only thing fans have to fear is their own alcohol-fueled selves.

The new beams are not going to collapse on anyone. The old ones? Well, Cubs fans have been risking those since before World War I.

‘‘There’s no higher priority than to ensure our fans enjoy baseball in the safest environment possible,’’ sniffed Julian Green, the Cubs’ vice president of communications. He was dismissing ‘‘reckless’’ rumors the upper decks might be unsafe.

No matter that the ominously named rockers Fall Out Boy perform before the game. (Apparently, the Solid Ground Band wasn’t available.) The only real problem here is that modern times have come to interfere with Wrigley’s tradition. And isn’t tradition what the Cubs have sold since 1908?

Right now, a new beat is in the air. And the fans can feel it.

Yes, giddy optimism pops up every five to 10 years with the Cubs. We’ll take the last one back to 2008, a buzz that was killed when the Cubs blew up once more in the first round of the playoffs. Manager Lou Piniella eventually drifted off into the desert, babbling and eating locusts.

Now the Cubs have the No.  1 minor-league system in all of baseball, and for Cubs fans that’s almost like winning the World Series. On paper, Kris Bryant comes up in late April and hits 60 home runs. Success is here!

But with the new seats and the new scoreboard and the new concourses that make it just a matter of time until the Cubs annex Waveland and Sheffield avenues and all the rooftops into — ta-da! — Wrigleyland, something is lost.

Baseball is as loaded with nostalgia as dentistry is with gas. And so there are those of us who remember the call of the old and gentle bleachers on Opening Day. Now they’ll be nothing. Just tarps and steel.

The famous play ‘‘Bleacher Bums’’ was not called ‘‘Jumbo-Bums’’ for a reason. The new monstrosity in left field dwarfs the green scoreboard in center field, the way Godzilla dwarfs your pet lizard.

But bigger always comes. And it’s hard to say 18th-century urinal troughs and port-o-johns are better than real restrooms.

I remember sitting in the bleachers when it cost just a dollar, but that’s only because I’m old. But I also remember sitting in the bleachers when it was much more expensive, and it was still . . . Wrigley Field.

Will the new place, no matter how long it takes to build, still be Wrigley Field?

Hard to say.

But on Irving Park Road, not far from the ballpark, there’s a billboard touting the Vamoose Tattoo Removal company. The sign shows a photo of a woman from behind, her bare back untouched until just above what we’ll call the butt area. There, in red letters, is the word ‘‘KUBS.’’

Some things, like the stain of 100-plus years of losing, need erasing. Forget the infrastructure.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ricktelander

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