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Chip Hilton

Chip Hilton was the fictional eponymous hero of a series of sports related books written by Clair Bee from 1948 through 1965 and published in hardcover by Grosset & Dunlap. Clair Bee was also a well-known and successful college basketball coach, and also the author of several authoritative books relating to basketball playing or coaching techniques. An excellent article about Clair Bee and the Chip Hilton book series appeared in the January 7, 1980 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.

Chip Hilton seemed to excel at all the then-major sports except hockey. Like most series books heroes, he didn't have a girlfriend, and spent much of his time with boys named "Biggie," "Soapy," and "Fireball." He did occasionally appear to have his eye on Mitzi, the head cashier at his employer's drug store, and once daydreamed about her while looking in a storefront at a display for dancing lessons.

The Chip Hilton series is distinguished from Grosset and Dunlap's simultaneous Hardy Boys series by a greater degree of psychological interest. The staidly perfect Chip serves as a foil for his much more human fellow characters.

A second distinction from series such as The Hardy Boys is that the series of books largely occur in chronological sequence - Chip and his schoolmates age during the series, one season at a time. Midway through the series, the characters graduate from Valley Falls High School and are reunited at State College. A discrepancy exists in the original series, where A Pass And A Prayer, Chip's senior football season, came after his basketball and baseball seasons, documented in Hoop Crazy and Pitchers' Duel. This discrepancy is fixed in the updated series, and the football season again comes before basketball and baseball.

The typical Chip Hilton story involved two to three related plots. The Big Reds or Statesmen were involved in a battle for championship glory, but some team member had some sort of personal issue, often selfishness, that impeded himself and thus the team. Chip usually straightened out the personal issues and the offending player became a vital cog in a championship drive (never as vital as Chip, of course) and usually became admitted to Chip's buddy list. Sometimes the secondary plot was not strictly team related, as when Chip's boss took ill, or when he helped a teammate chop down trees to sell for firewood. Other frequent plot devices include coaches who do not understand the style of play of Chip and his pals. A slow start to the season is generally followed by Chip interceding with the coach on behalf of his mates, a coaching epiphany, and the coach deciding it is best to see things Chip's way while deriding himself as a fool for trying to change the team's style. Championships generally follow.

The most notable book in the series was "Hoop Crazy," which discussed the difficulties facing a black player wanting to join the basketball team. This was the only Chip Hilton book that addressed social issues, and it did so in a compelling manner, although some of the early works did mention a great "negro" athlete, Miner, who played for the Big Reds' major rivals, Steeltown. Miner was presented as a gifted athlete without controversy over his participation; portraying an African-American athlete as accepted by teammate and foe alike. The reference is all the more interesting considering that the first books were written in the late 40s and early 50s when many pro teams, and even leagues, were yet to feature a black athlete.

Recently the stories have been updated and revised by Mr. Bee's children with a new evangelical Christian overlay that was not in the original series, and issued in a series of paperback books, along with a new hardback Chip Hilton book titled Fiery Fullback.

Collectibles

The original series of twenty-three Chip Hilton books have become popular collectibles, with the last few books fetching the highest prices because of their relatively limited print runs. Chip Hilton books are always about either football, basketball, or baseball. The first six Chip Hilton titles were originally issued in fire-engine red, smooth textured bindings, with blank outer covers and picture dust jackets. These first six titles were later re-issued with blank rougher tweed cover bindings, with picture dust jackets, as were the first editions of issues #7 through #19. There is an "urban legend" circulating that volume #7 was also originally issued in a fire-engine red binding, but this is unverified.

All twenty-three original titles were then re-issued in picture cover versions (later than the stated publication dates for issues #1-#19), without dust jackets, using the original dust jacket illustrations for the picture cover illustrations, with some variations existing for many issues with regard to some of the back cover images and back cover book title listings. There is an active market in the original Chip Hilton hardback books on the Ebay auction site, with usually 60-70 copies or partial sets for sale at any one time, with prices ranging from as low as $1-$2 for rough condition copies of the more common copies of tweed binding edition books without dust jackets up to several hundred dollars or more for fine condition copies of Hungry Hurler (#23), of which apparently only about 12,000 copies were printed.

In the new paperbacks, the first printing of the first 12 books carry a holographic image of a Chip Hilton logo.

List Of Titles

  1. Touchdown Pass - 1948
  2. Championship Ball - 1948
  3. Strike Three! - 1949
  4. Clutch Hitter - 1949
  5. A Pass and a Prayer - 1951
  6. Hoop Crazy - 1950
  7. Pitchers' Duel - 1950
  8. Dugout Jinx - 1952
  9. Freshman Quarterback - 1952
  10. Backboard Fever - 1953
  11. Fence Busters - 1953
  12. Ten Seconds To Play! - 1955
  13. Fourth Down Showdown - 1956
  14. Tournament Crisis - 1957
  15. Hardcourt Upset - 1957
  16. Pay-off Pitch - 1958
  17. No-Hitter - 1959
  18. Triple-Threat Trouble - 1960
  19. Backcourt Ace - 1961
  20. Buzzer Basket - 1962
  21. Comeback Cagers - 1963
  22. Home Run Feud - 1964
  23. Hungry Hurler - 1965
  24. Fiery Fullback - 2002

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