I had planned to feature this song for opening day this season, but it seems it always got bumped for something else. So what better alternative than to feature it in celebration of the World Series. No, my Yankees aren’t in it this year, but I’m a baseball fan through and through. Talk all you want about football or basketball. To me, baseball will always be the greatest game, America’s Pastime. I think what I like about it is the tradition, the myth that has surrounded the game since its origins at Elysian Field in Hoboken, NJ. Ask yourself how many great movies have been made about the other sports. Oh sure, there are a few, but baseball is featured in so many great movies. I think the James Earl James speech from “Field of Dreams” says it best about baseball and America, so I posted it below for you.
The Intruders were from Philadelphia, so they probably grew up rooting for the hometown Phillies. Sadly the Phillies have had precious little success over the years, with just two World Series titles, but if you know anything about Philly fans, you know that they are die-hards. Besides, the Phillies are the oldest one-name, one-city franchise in continuous operation in all of American professional sports. They’ve been around since 1883, and I’ll bet any Phillies fan worth his or her salt could tell you that.
As you may recall, last week I discussed the work of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and its importance in the career of Jerry Butler. You simply cannot discuss Philly Soul without mentioning their names. While they were gearing up to turn the music world on its head with their smooth soul productions, the Intruders were getting their act together too. They had come together in 1960 and starting singing around Philadelphia.
The Intruders had to wait a few years for the magic, but in 1966 Messrs. (Sam “Little Sonny”) Brown, (Eugene “Bird”) Daughtry, (Robert “Big Sonny”) Edwards, and (Phillip “Phil”) Terry met Mr. Gamble and Mr. Huff, and the group signed to the producers new Gamble record label. Although they are often overshadowed by Philly Soul legends like Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes and the O’Jays, it was the Intruders who were first to have hits with Gamble & Huff.
The string of success began in ’66 with “(We’ll Be) United,” and continued a year later with “Together.” But it was a year after that, 1968, that the Intruders had their biggest hit with “Cowboys to Girls,” a record that not only reached #1 on the R&B chart and #6 on the Pop chart, but became something of a template for all of the great Philly Soul records that followed. Unfortunately there was only one more Top 40 hit for the intruders after that, and that was “(Love Is Like A) Baseball Game,” which reached #4 on the R&B chart, and #26 Pop.
I’ve mentioned this before in relation to the Intruders, but it bears mentioning again. It was because of the success that Gamble & Huff had with the Intruders that the producers were able to go to Columbia Records and get the money they needed to start Philadelphia International Records. That alone makes the Intruders worthy of a place in music history.
Things didn’t go smoothly for the Intruders after their last big hit. In 1970 Sam Brown, the group’s lead singer, was replaced by Bobby Starr. The group had some success with Starr, scoring hits with “When We Get Married,” and “Win, Place, or Show (She’s a Winner).” You might remember this lineup of the group from the appearances that they made on Soul Train in the early ’70s. Brown came back in 1973, and he sang on the Intruders last two hits “I Wanna Know Your Name,” and “I’ll Always Love My Mama.” The Intruders initially disbanded in 1975.
“Cowboys to Girls” was the only #1 hit that the Intruders had, but it was covered many times, including one version by Gene Chandler. “Together” was covered by Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Three Degrees, and of course there was the 1968 Peaches & Herb cover of “(We’ll Be) United,” which inspired the even bigger hit that followed it, “Reunited.”
As I write this, the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants are getting ready for game two of the World Series tonight. The Giants won the first game last night. I’ll be watching again tonight because I love baseball, and after all, as the Intruders told us many years ago, love is like a baseball game.