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.
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.
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
Year Volume Pages 1948 1. Touchdown Pass 212 1948 2. Championship Ball 210 1949 3. Strike Three! 212 1949 4. Clutch Hitter! 206 1950 5. Hoop Crazy 215 1950 6. Pitchers’ Duel 212 1951 7. A Pass and A Prayer 216 1952 8. Dugout Jinx 210 1952 9. Freshman Quarterback 212 1953 10. Backboard Fever 210 1953 11. Fence Busters 208 1955 12. Ten Seconds to Play! 213 1956 13. Fourth Down Showdown 213 1957 14. Tournament Crisis 214 1958 15. Hardcourt Upset 181 1958 16. Pay-Off Pitch 182 1959 17. No-Hitter 182 I960 18. Triple-Threat Trouble 182 1961 19. Backcourt Ace 182 1962 20. Buzzer Basket 175 1963 21. Comeback Cagers 170 1964 22. Home Run Feud 176 1966 23. Hungry Hurler 184
Source: All About Collecting Boys’ Series Books. John Axe, 2002.