The repeated mention of Cal Ripken's just-ended errorless-games streak for the Baltimore Orioles strikes a sharp contrast to its American League predecessor. Eddie Brinkman played 72 consecutive miscue-free games at shortstop for the Detroit Tigers in 1972, and almost didn't know it.

As it happened, Brinkman was oblivious to his record-setting run until it was more than half over. Although Ripken's glovework has been one of the few constants for the inconsistent Orioles, Brinkman's play in the field -- he didn't make an error from May 2 until Aug. 4 -- was overshadowed by the 1972 pennant race in which the Tigers outlasted the Boston Red Sox to win the American League East during the last week of the regular season.

"When I went through it, I didn't even know that I had one going until 50 games or so," Brinkman said recently from Boston, where he was on a scouting assignment for the Chicago White Sox. "I was more concerned with winning each particular game. The streak was secondary, or even lower than that."

It wasn't the first time Brinkman, a member of the Washington Senators from 1961 to 1970, had such a run. He unknowingly established a major league record by playing 56 straight errorless games with Detroit in 1971, a streak that didn't receive extensive publicity until Brinkman approached -- and eventually passed -- that figure the following season.

"I would think that a player would know about {a streak} sooner than I did," Brinkman said. "It wasn't until later that I realized I accomplished something pretty rare."

So rare that 16 years passed before Kevin Elster of the New York Mets put together 88 errorless games from July 19, 1988, to May 9, 1989, to surpass Brinkman's record.

Brinkman continued to hold the single-season standard until July 1, five days after Memorial Stadium official scorer Bill Stetka removed an error he called on Ripken that would have ended the Baltimore shortstop's string at 67 games. The streak finally stopped yesterday at 95 when he booted a grounder in the fifth inning in the first game of a doubleheader in Kansas City.

Controversy and call reversals were absent during Brinkman's run in 1972. Instead, the streak served as a source of enjoyment for the Tigers, who used it to diffuse the pressure of a tight pennant race.

Brinkman expressed no remorse about losing his record to Ripken.

"I think Cal might now get the recognition he deserves defensively," he said.