He earned the fear of pitchers. What he wanted was the respect of the boo-birds in Boston. The Splendid Splinter the last major leaguer to hit .400, and owner of six batting titles over a 22-year span (during which he took five seasons off for World War II and, as a combat pilot, the Korean conflict) was himself as conflicted, splintered, as a Eugene O'Neill tragic hero. Sullen yet sensitive, he gave the finger to Red Sox fans but was avid to hear the sound of 66,000 hands clapping. He stoked controversy even after his death, when family members argued over whether to freeze his remains. Williams' goal was to be known as the greatest hitter who ever lived. That designation may unfairly exclude guys named Ruth, Cobb, Mays, Bonds and DiMaggio, his greatest rival. But no one brought more pure skill and science to the simple, impossible task of watching a ball approach at 95 m.p.h. and whacking the cover off it.