Bellinger doesn't know who Seinfeld is. Not that there's anything wrong with that

Jerry Seinfeld explains the show's success (1991)
Jerry Seinfeld explains the show's success (1991)

    JUST WATCHED

    Jerry Seinfeld explains the show's success (1991)

MUST WATCH

Jerry Seinfeld explains the show's success (1991) 13:57

Story highlights

  • 21-year-old Cody Bellinger, a rookie for the LA Dodgers, doesn't know who Jerry Seinfeld is
  • Downey: Bellinger's lack of knowledge is funny, but his youth signals a much-needed generational shift for baseball

Mike Downey is a former Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune columnist and a frequent contributor to CNN. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Cody Bellinger doesn't know who Jerry Seinfeld is. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Bellinger is a 21-year-old baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers who is becoming what would be known on TV as a smash hit. He already has 24 home runs in just 57 games. As a headline on ESPN's website put it: "Cody Bellinger is real ... and he's spectacular."
Mike Downey
That is a joke Cody probably didn't get. We older dudes did. We men and women from older generations were the diehard fans who made "Seinfeld" a national pastime when the comedy series ran on NBC from 1989-98 or caught it again during its constant replays on TBS. We know favorite phrases (like "they're real ... and they're spectacular") by heart.
    But after a teammate, Brandon McCarthy, brought up the name of Jerry Seinfeld before pitching against the comedian's favorite team, the New York Mets, a fellow from ESPN mentioned it to a mystified Bellinger, who said: "I couldn't put a face to the name."
    Dodger players had a field day on Twitter. Alex Wood: "Are you kidding me?" Enrique Hernandez: "What can you expect? He's like 13 years old!" McCarthy: "If you weren't so good at baseball, I'd petition the league to suspend you."
    Seriously funny.
    Baseball was a big deal on "Seinfeld." So many episodes involving the principal characters — around the horn: Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer — involved the game. George being hired by the New York Yankees as an "assistant to the traveling secretary." Jerry becoming a friend to the former Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez, who then tried to get to first base with Elaine. A spitting incident involving Kramer at the stadium. Elaine offending the Yankees by attending a game in a Baltimore Orioles cap. Yada, yada, yada.
    But we now inhabit a world in which real-life baseball stars were born in 1995. When the series finale of "Seinfeld" was shown in May 1998, the Bellinger family in Scottsdale, Arizona, still hadn't thrown Cody his 3rd birthday party. He didn't know Seinfeld from center field.
    The world changes, as the Dodgers themselves have had to accept. Once upon a time, they were baseball royalty — not quite the Yankees, when it comes to crowning achievements, but certainly a proud and storied franchise. But it's been a very long time since their season has been a hit; the Dodgers have not won a World Series (or even appeared in one) since 1988.
    In his lifetime, Cody Bellinger has seen his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks and other teams win a championship, but not the team he plays for now. So, if you brought up "famous" names of the Dodgers' past, Cody might not be able to put a face to any of those, either.
    He and the teammates who have been having a good time with him are hoping to change all this. After a 12-6 victory Sunday over the Colorado Rockies, the red-hot rookie and the red-hot Dodgers have won 10 games in a row and 16 of their last 17. Bellinger wowed a Dodger Stadium crowd by belting two more home runs.
    The team is hotter than the Yankees were back when George Costanza persuaded them to change from polyester to cotton pants.
    Bellinger hasn't come out of nowhere, exactly — this is not "The Natural," if you will excuse yet another outdated baseball-themed entertainment reference — but, needless to say, he has taken the baseball world by surprise. He and the Yankees' young slugger, Aaron Judge, have become overnight sensations from coast to coast.
    Their rise to fame has come at exactly the right time. Baseball needs star power, particularly with well-known older players like David Ortiz having recently retired and younger ones like Mike Trout currently injured and unable to perform. TV needs stars and so does sports.
    Follow CNN Opinion

    Join us on Twitter and Facebook

    It could be that Bellinger is just what the game needed. Who knows, maybe he could even become the next Babe Ruth.
    Explain who that is, if necessary. Babe Ruth. Fat guy. Looked a little like that mailman Seinfeld couldn't stand, Newman.