Volume 16 (1958)
|Country||United States of America|
|Publisher||Grosset & Dunlap|
William "Chip" Hilton is the central character in a series of 24 sports novels for adolescent boys written by the successful college basketball coach and 1968 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Clair Bee (1896–1983). In addition to Bee's authorship of the Chip Hilton series, he was also the author of several basketball and coaching technique books. The Chip Hilton series was published between 1948 and 1966 by Grosset & Dunlap, with Bee's last manuscript, Fiery Fullback, published in 2002.
The series hero excels in football, basketball and baseball, and is often placed in the position of persuading his less-than-perfect teammates to play his way and share his values—with winning championships being the result. Stories have two or three subplots, sometimes unrelated to sports, and one title is distinguished for tackling racism. The Chip Hilton books sold 2.2 million copies, and, in 1997, the NCAA founded the Chip Hilton Player of the Year Award.
In the late 1990s, the series was re-issued by a Nashville religious book publishing house with the co-operation of Bee's children. The re-issue caused a furor among fans and purists with its politically correct update and its down-home Christian evangelical flavor. The original series is highly collectible, with some titles being worth hundreds of dollars.
Unlike other Grosset & Dunlap boys series books of the period, the Chip Hilton stories are distinguished by a greater degree of psychological interest. The staidly perfect Chip serves as a foil for his much more human fellow characters. Chip excels at all major sports, except hockey and soccer. Like most series books heroes, he doesn't have a girlfriend, and spends much of his time with his buddies: "Biggie," "Soapy," "Speed" and "Fireball." He does occasionally turn 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. Chip was based on Seton Hall basketball player Bob Davies, and Chip's coach, Henry "The Rock" Rockwell, was based on Bee himself.
Chip Hilton books are always about football, basketball, or baseball. The most notable book in the series is Hoop Crazy, which examines the difficulties facing a black player wanting to join the basketball team. This is the only Chip Hilton book addressing social issues, and it does so in a compelling manner, although some of the early works did mention a great "negro" athlete, Miner, who played for one of 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. Tournament Crisis dealt with a team member who was Chinese and struggled to be included as a part of the team. He is initially depicted as angry and hard to like, and Chip works to help him and bring him around.
In the 1960s, interest in the Chip Hilton books waned because of (according to Bee) rising book prices and the influence of television. As a result, Bee never submitted his last manuscript, Fiery Fullback, to Grosset & Dunlap. After Bee's death in 1983, his children sought a publisher for the manuscript, but found that many believed Chip too "white-bread," and out of touch with contemporary readers. Suggestions to update the hero by giving him an earring and turning his baseball cap backward were nixed by Bee's children. At last, Broadman & Holman, a Nashville religious book publishing house, found Chip's old-fashioned values attractive and agreed to publish the manuscript while resurrecting the entire series. All 23 titles began appearing in paperback editions in 1998 as updated by Bee's children, and a special hardcover edition of Bee's final manuscript was published in 2002 without change from the original.
Some critics and purists charged the publisher with literary tampering and an excess of political correctness, however only minor details were changed—not plot or basis for characters. Social themes and sports strategy were updated. Chip had a cat, read Sports Illustrated, watched ESPN, and used a computer to do his homework. His best friend was now an African American; Asian and Hispanic character names were introduced. The publisher also wanted some religious content so Chip attended church regularly and prayed.
The original series of 23 Chip Hilton books has become a popular collectible, with the last few books fetching the highest prices because of their relatively limited print runs. The first six Chip Hilton titles were originally issued in fire-engine red, smooth textured bindings, with blank outer covers and full color picture dust jackets. These first six titles were later re-issued with blank rougher tweed cover bindings and 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 23 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
Since 1997, the NCAA has presented The Chip Hilton Player of the Year Award to a Division I men's basketball player who has demonstrated outstanding character, leadership, integrity, humility, sportsmanship and talent both on and off the court, similar to the fictional Chip Hilton character.
- DeFrank, Thomas M.. "Sporting Legend Returns". Daily News, 4 August 2002. Retrieved 24 October 2008.
- Axe, John. All About Collecting Boys' Series Books. Hobby House Press, Inc., 2002.
- agent for books
- McCallum, Jack. "A Hero for All Times." Sports Illustrated, January 7, 1980. Retrieved 2 November 2008.