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Hoop Crazy

The Lives of Clair Bee and Chip Hilton

Dennis Gildea

Publication Year: 2013

Clair Bee (1896–1983) was a hugely successful basketball coach at Rider College and Long Island University with a 412 and 87 record before his career was derailed in 1951 by a point-shaving scandal. In the trial that sent his star player, Sherman White, to prison, the judge excoriated Bee for creating a morally lax culture that contributed to his players' involvement with gambling. To a certain extent, Bee agreed with the judge's scolding, concluding that coaches, himself included, had become so driven to succeedon the court that they had lost sight of the educational role sports should play. His coaching career effectively over, Bee launched an effort to reform the ills he saw in college sports, and he did so in the pages of the Chip Hilton novels for young readers. He began the series in 1948, but it was the post-scandal books that he used as teaching tools. The books mirrored some of the events of the gambling scandal and were Bee's attempt to reform the problems plaguing college sports. He used his fiction to posit a better sports world that he hoped his young readers would construct and inhabit. The Chip Hilton books were extremely popular and have become a classic series, with over two million copies sold to date. Hoop Crazy is the fascinating story of Clair Bee and his star character Chip Hilton and the ways in which their lives, real and fictional, were intertwined.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xx

“The obituaries could never tell enough, because obituaries never do, and because the story of the old man’s life is merely the history of basketball in this country.”1 That’s how Mike Lupica began his 1983 column memorializing Clair Bee, and when Lupica wrote that the history of Bee’s life “is merely...

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CHAPTER 1: The Extremes of Clair Bee

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pp. 1-14

Everything was beginning to unravel.
Maybe they didn’t see it, or didn’t want to see it, a month ago when it was just the Manhattan College players involved. That was when Long Island University president Tristram Walker Metcalfe tried to make them see it, tried to...

The Early Years: 1896–1931

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CHAPTER 2: Grafton and Valley Falls

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pp. 17-34

Measured ultimately against the grinding vicissitudes of later life, high school yearbooks often make for poignant reading. These most hopeful of publications can tell tales of dreams dashed, ambitions unfulfilled, spirits crushed. Such was not the case for Clair Francis Bee. “Beezer,” as his Grafton, West...

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CHAPTER 3: Dick Dalton Goes to College

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pp. 35-46

When Grafton High football coach Jasper Colebank greeted his team for the first practice of the 1920 season, he found himself working with forty-five candidates and one former player. “Claire [sic] Bee is working out with the locals...

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CHAPTER 4: Professor Bee and Coach Bee at Rider

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pp. 47-62

Bee was eighty-one in 1977 when a writer asked him about his memories of his days at Rider College, and the first thing that came to his mind had nothing to do with launching the sports program there. “I recall the platforms at the front of the old classrooms in Trenton,” he said. “I would stride back...

Bee at Long Island University: 1931–52

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CHAPTER 5: Making the Blackbirds Proud

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pp. 65-82

Trouble along the Way, a 1953 John Wayne film, opens with a panoramic, establishing shot of the Manhattan skyline seen from the distance of one of the other boroughs, possibly even Brooklyn. The next shot closes in on a fictional college...

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CHAPTER 6: Defying Hitler; Losing to Luisetti

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pp. 83-98

Long Island University’s undefeated 1935–36 basketball season launched Bee on a steadily ascending spiral that continued until 1951, but when the season began in December, those allegedly in the know were touting New York University as the best team in the New York metropolitan area and the...

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CHAPTER 7: The Innovator and the NIT Championships

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pp. 99-120

What is this madman up to now?
It was minutes before the start of basketball practice, and not just any basketball practice but one taking place the day before the 1939 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship game between Long Island University and Loyola of...

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CHAPTER 8: Jim Crow and the Spit Bucket

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pp. 121-140

If you kept an ear cocked on the streets of New York City in the postwar period, you could hear the sound of racial barriers being smashed, or at least splintered—in sports and in general. Black troops returned from World War II expecting and eventually demanding the same freedom they fought for in...

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CHAPTER 9: Thanksgiving 1939

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pp. 141-158

For Long Island University students and even the sports fans of Brooklyn, the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day 1939 were unusual. People were more excited about an upcoming LIU football game than they were about the beginning of basketball...

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CHAPTER 10: World War II, Postwar Boom, and the Creation of Chip

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pp. 159-172

Long Island University’s second National Invitation Tournament championship came by virtue of a 56–42 win over Ohio University in March of 1941, but no sooner had Bee placed the championship trophy in the university’s trophy...

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CHAPTER 11: Chip Hilton and Race Relations

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pp. 173-186

Clair Bee was conducting a basketball clinic in Cuba in the years before the revolution when he met Ernest Hemingway. What they had in common was a love of sports, literature, and, of course, the occasional alcoholic beverage. Bee was...

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CHAPTER 12: Sixty-Four Manhattans and a Few Wives

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pp. 187-200

For much of his life, Clair Bee bounced back and forth between extremes. He was the romantic idealist who conceived of Chip Hilton; he was the rugged realist, as Stanley Frank described him, who would do virtually anything to...

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CHAPTER 13: The Fix and the Fixers

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pp. 201-220

Possibly because the century was at its halfway point and it seemed to be a logical time for summing up and taking stock, possibly because it was Long Island University’s silver anniversary, and possibly because he was entering his twentieth...

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CHAPTER 14: Sherman White and Coach Bee

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pp. 221-234

It was the final sad irony of Sherman White’s life.
As the current inductees and others of the elite who were already enshrined or connected with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame were making their way to...

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CHAPTER 15: Journalist Bee Confronts the Scandal

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pp. 235-248

The saga began with Clair Bee telling reporters at Leone’s, “We’ve never done anything wrong. My boys are in the clear,” and it ended with his writing in the Saturday Evening Post, “Public confidence in college basketball is shattered, and the...

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CHAPTER 16: Bee the Psalm Singer

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pp. 249-266

The trial of the New York dumpers and gamblers took place just before Thanksgiving in 1951. Between the day of the first arrest of the Long Island University trio and the end of the trial, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to die in the electric chair for giving America’s atomic-bomb secrets to the...

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CHAPTER 17 Chip and the Scandal

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pp. 267-286

So, was the Clair Bee who wrote the idealistic Chip Hilton books a hypocrite?
Many have argued that he was, and Murray Sperber leads that charge. “Up to the arrest of his players, a high wall separated Coach from Author, thus, the convenient ex post...

Life after Long Island University:1952–83

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CHAPTER 18: The Bullets and Beyond

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pp. 289-304

Shirley Povich found it amusing, but Clair Bee wasn’t laughing. The 1951–52 basketball season arrived, and for the first time in his adult life Bee was not coaching. Instead, he was serving as controller at Long Island University, the man who would oversee all of the university’s expenditures. Povich...

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CHAPTER 19: Bobby Knight, Another Championship, and Blindness

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pp. 305-318

It was in the late 1970s when Bob Smith, captain of the 1947–48 LIU team, was in the Northeast, and he wanted to pay a visit to his former coach. That involved driving to the CB Ranch outside of Roscoe, New York, a trout-fishing paradise...

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pp. 319-322

I’ll begin with a statement that no one can dispute: When Wallace Stevens wrote his iconic poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” he did not have Clair Bee in mind. And while there may not be thirteen ways of looking at a...


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pp. G1-G13


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pp. 323-330


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pp. 331-376


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pp. 377-382


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pp. 383-394

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781610755290
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557286413

Page Count: 340
Publication Year: 2013