Biography

Chip Hilton Book Series Collector’s Guide

Clair Bee’s Chip Hilton series is probably the finest boys’ books about sports ever published. They are also among the best books of all boys’ series. Surprisingly, girls also enjoyed the Chip Hilton books.

Clair Bee
Clair Bee

Coach Clair Bee was born March 2, 1896; he died May 20, 1983. The January 7, 1980, issue of Sports Illustrated has a great article about him and his Chip Hilton books, written by admirer Jack McCallum. McCallum tells that when he interviewed Bee in late 19795 the coach seemed very old even for his eighty-three years, but he gathered great information for Chip Hilton fans from him.

Bee set the first eight Chip Hilton books in Valley Falls, West Virginia, near Clarksburg, where he was born, but was careful to keep regionalisms out of the books so that readers would not know just where Chip’s high school was located. Some thought it was in Connecticut; Others figured that Chip lived in California. In 1941 Bee was coaching the Long Island University (LIU) team, a position he held from 1932 to 1943 and 1946 to 1951. At the National Invitational Basketball Tournament in Madison Square Garden in 1941 LIU was playing Seaton Hall in the semifinals. One of the Seaton Hall players was the great all-around athlete Bob Davies, who impressed Bee greatly. Bob Davies became the model for Chip Hilton and Bee himself was the model for Chip’s coach Henry “the Rock” Rockwell. (LIU beat Seaton Hall in 1941 and also won the finals.)

Clair Bee is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the LIU Sports Hall of Fame and the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame. He was a leading advocate of the three-second rule and he helped the NBA develop the twenty-four-second clock. Bee’s teams won ninety-five percent, of their games and with him LIU had two undefeated seasons (1936 and 1939) and won two National Invitational Titles (1939 and 1941).

Clair Bee told McCallum that the reason that the Chip Hilton series ended was because the price of the books was rising rapidly in the late 1960s and that television was interfering with sales. Bee also wrote many technical books about sports, most of them dealing with basketball.

Hungry Hurler - Chip Hilton 23
Hungry Hurler – Chip Hilton 23. First edition, 1966.

Artist Frank Vaughn, who also did most of the Cherry Ames books, executed most of the Chip Hilton dust jacket or picture covers. Vaughn was originally from New Rochelle, New York, and he attended the New York Phoenix School of Design. He did extensive magazine and advertising illustrations as well as other children’s book covers. When he was in the Navy he was stationed on the West Coast, from which he also developed an interest in Western themes. His dust jacket for We Were There at Pearl Harbor (Grosset & Dunlap, 1957) is especially good and one wonders if the models for the children in the picture could have been his, as he had three of his own. Vaughn’s signature is on Volumes 1, 3,4, 5, 16 and 17 of the Chip Hilton books, and every book except the last one, Volume 23, looks like his work. This one, Hungry Hurler, is signed by a name that looks like it is “McDermot.”

The Chip Hilton books are known for the high personal values and ideals that Coach Clair Bee espoused. Beginning in 1998 Bee’s daughter Cindy and her husband Randy Farley began rewriting, updating and republishing the Chip Hilton books in paperback form. These books still concentrate on Chip’s positive influences and his good-sportsmanship, but many collectors are disappointed that the books are now a Christian Series.

Chip Hilton Book Formats (First edition Identification Guide)

I. 1948- 1950

  • Volumes #l-#6
    • Bright red composition binding
    • Frontis on plain paper
    • Decorated eps in color
    • Color Dust jacket, different for each book

II. 1951 – 1961

  • Volumes #1 – #19, including first printings of #7 — #19
    • Reddish or brownish tweed composition binding
    • Frontis on plain paper
    • Decorated eps in color
    • Color Dust Jacket, different for each book

III. 1962- 1966

  • Volumes #1 – #23, including first printings of #20 – #23
    • Picture cover books
    • Plain frontis; some have many internal illustrations
    • Decorated eps in color; later volumes are black and white drawings of sports scenes

Chip Hilton Book Series List

YearVolumePages
19481. Touchdown Pass212
19482. Championship Ball210
19493. Strike Three!212
19494. Clutch Hitter!206
19505. Hoop Crazy215
19506. Pitchers’ Duel212
19517. A Pass and A Prayer216
19528. Dugout Jinx210
19529. Freshman Quarterback212
195310. Backboard Fever210
195311. Fence Busters208
195512. Ten Seconds to Play!213
195613. Fourth Down Showdown213
195714. Tournament Crisis214
195815. Hardcourt Upset181
195816. Pay-Off Pitch182
195917. No-Hitter182
I96018. Triple-Threat Trouble182
196119. Backcourt Ace182
196220. Buzzer Basket175
196321. Comeback Cagers170
196422. Home Run Feud176
196623. Hungry Hurler184

Source: All About Collecting Boys’ Series Books. John Axe, 2002.

BOOKSTORE: Rare, Antiquarian, First editions, Illustrated Children's Books

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