Talk Back LogoBy Christopher J. Anderson, Ph.D., Methodist Librarian

One of the joys of working in an archive is finding hidden historical gems among the piles of papers, rows of boxes, and vaults of film. Recently, I located one such item while analyzing
16-mm films in one of our lower vaults. The black and white film was titled “Forget Richards!” (1958) and upon review I soon realized there would be great interest from staff at another well-known archive located a few hours north of Madison in Cooperstown, New York.

During the 1950s the Television, Radio, and Film Commission of the Methodist Church produced a series titled “Talk Back” which was broadcast in the New York City area on WOR-TV 9. Each 30-minute episode included a moral play segment and a subsequent conversation by a panel of local religious and business leaders. The session was led by a moderator who connected the commentary of the panel with the ethical vignette portrayed in the film.

In “Forget Richards!” the moderator is played by baseball legend Jackie Robinson. In 1947, Robinson became the first African American player to break Major League Baseball’s exclusion of black athletes. What makes the film intriguing is that Robinson is not wearing a baseball uniform but rather a jacket and tie. In fact, the film has nothing to do with baseball at all. The episode is related to ethics in the workplace.

After locating the film, I contacted the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to see if they owned a copy of the production. They responded that they had never heard of the film and were very excited to add a copy to their Jackie Robinson collection. In November, Dr. Robert Williams, General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History for the United Methodist Church, and I presented the Hall of Fame with a DVD copy of the film. Our special collections gem at Drew now adds another piece of history to the rich Cooperstown collection.

originally published in Visions, Spring 2011