An Empty Yankee Stadium Was Used As A Filming Location For Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman”
Here Are Some Views Of A “Different” Yankee Stadium In 1928
In one scene Keaton figures he’ll head up to the Bronx and film some baseball action sequences. He arrives at Yankee Stadium and hurries in with his camera ready to catch the Bronx Bombers, only to discover the Yankees are not playing that day.
That does not stop Keaton from indulging in fantasy, as the empty stadium looms as a backdrop to his antics.
In real life Keaton was a baseball fanatic. This was a time when many Hollywood studios had their own baseball teams and played against one another. In the written application to work with Keaton’s company, there were two questions on the form: 1. Are you a good actor? 2. Can you play baseball? If you answered yes to both you probably could get a job working with Keaton.
Yankee Stadium opened in 1923. Over the next ten years constant changes occurred to the dimensions, seating and field itself creating the classic Yankee Stadium that most fans are familiar with either first-hand or through old photographs.
Presented below are stills from Buster Keaton’s classic film, The Cameraman.
In the opening Yankee Stadium sequence Keaton enters through center field. Note the unfinished right field stands. As originally configured, straight away center field was over 490 feet away from home plate! The bleachers could hold over 10,000 fans. The flagpole was on the playing field and there were no plaques or monuments in Yankee Stadium yet, honoring the “greats.”
On the pitcher’s mound a perplexed Keaton with camera ready awaits the locker room man coming to give him the bad news. There is no game today. The first Yankee Stadium scoreboard is pretty much positioned where the future “modern” scoreboard would be later placed.
In this wide shot from home plate you can see the pathway from home to the pitcher’s mound that many ballparks used to have, including Yankee Stadium. A Life buoy billboard advertisement is in the left field bleachers. The apartment buildings in the background are still there. It’s the ballpark that is not there anymore.
The tallest building in the background is the Concourse Plaza Hotel. Many visiting teams used to stay there when the neighborhood was in vogue.
As Keaton looks to the imaginary catcher for the sign we have a great view of home plate and the stands. There is a screen to protect the people near home plate and a large exit tunnel on the first base side which was eventually altered to create more prime seating.
As Keaton gets ready to wind up, the IRT train is going south into Manhattan in the background. As long as I can remember, if you were riding the train you could always see a small part of the stadium from the train in right field.
If you were a train passenger imagine this view from left to center field. Three train cars could pass the stadium unobscured. Almost 100 feet of clear baseball viewing for train riders.
As Keaton gets his turn at the plate, you get a pretty good view of first base and the right field stands. Note the position of the foul pole. A player could hook a home run around the pole similar to today’s right field at Fenway Park.