I wanted to be the greatest hitter that ever lived. . . it was the center of my heart, hitting a baseball."" Thus Ted Williams, recalling his days as the Splendid Splinter, baseball's last 400 hitter, about to come back as manager of the Washington Senators. This as-told-to account (previously serialized in Sports Illustrated) covers his feats at bat and his off-the-field feuds with the press; his memories of his boyhood, his managers, and his years in the service. But most of all, it focuses on his passion: hitting. For him, the recent decline of that fine art, with all respect for technical changes, is best explained by the absence of what he feels made him a standout at the plate: his intense desire for greatness; his willingness to practice until his calluses blistered; his relentless stalking of the enemy--the pitcher. Williams' thoughts on hitting, and on speeding up play, will intrigue the student of the game. Due to its highly personal quality, the book is superior to its genre. From his youth in genteel poverty to the day he turned in his uniform, Williams was hot-tempered, hypersensitive, unsophisticated, egotistical, and proud of it. Custom hasn't staled him much. Washington sportswriters, watch out.