KANSAS CITY -- Hank Aaron is back and he has a Hammer.
Aaron, who was selected for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game every year from 1955-75, showed up with wife Billye, Commissioner Bud Selig and author George Will at the Habitat for Humanity All-Star Build in parking lot H outside Kauffman Stadium before the State Farm Home Run Derby.
"I feel good," Aaron said. "Six months ago I had a surgery on my left knee ... and that's why I'm hobbling around a little bit. But other than that, I feel good.
The Hammer put on a hard hat and said it was good to return to a big event, having missed his own Hank Aaron Award ceremony during the last World Series due to a left knee replacement. For those who were worried about the 78-year-old icon, he offered a big smile and joking zeal of youth.
"That's right -- I'm back. I'm back," he said. "My wife said if I'd have hit two or three more home runs I wouldn't have had to slide, so I wouldn't have had this problem.
"No, I had a knee replacement, and the most amazing thing about that is, it's not so much the replacement, it's the afterthought. It's when you go and have these things rehabbed, that's the most important thing. But you know, at my age, I tell them, it's an old knee. It's not a 17-year-old's knee."
Commissioner Selig said it meant a lot to have his longtime buddy here.
"Well, he's my friend, and so wherever I go, he goes and I'm glad to have him," Selig said. "Oh, he's doing great."
The Habitat for Humanity build is a partnership between MLB, the MLB Players Trust, State Farm and Holiday Inn, and includes nine homes that are being built for the tornado-ravaged communities in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Two of the homes are being rough-framed during All-Star Week. Aaron signed a front-door frame on the one going to Alabama and said, "That's not far from Mobile" -- his native home.
"Well, I guess I got a little taste of this many, many years ago," Aaron said. "My wife and I did this in Atlanta, built a home for Habitat. We did it for Mr. [Jimmy] Carter and some people I know. You can't beat this. All of the people, whoever occupy this house, will remember this forever -- no matter who this house goes to. And they will take care of it.
"It's a thrill for me to just to be a small part of it, with all of these people who volunteered to do all of these great things. It's not a million-dollar house, but it's something that a family always can feel like it's theirs. It's a home."
Aaron hit 755 home runs in his career, and durability was his hallmark. He's not that accustomed to rehabbing injuries.
"That's right," he said. "I was lucky."