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SUPER BOWL XXIII: CINCINNATI BENGALS vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS : Notebook : Cross Will Close Out a 13-Year Career Sunday

Times Staff Writer

After 13 pretty lucky years in the National Football League, during which time he has acquired more than his share of success and gray hair, San Francisco 49er center Randy Cross announced his retirement Wednesday, leaking word to a few thousand of his closest media friends at a news conference.

“I can think of no better way to end a career,” Cross said. “It’s the way you read about it, the way you dream about it. And Super Bowl XXIII will be my last game.”

Cross, 34, a graduate of Encino’s Crespi High School and UCLA, said he had been contemplating retirement since the end of last season.

“I just didn’t decide the first time I saw all these cameras and say, ‘Gee, this looks like a good idea,’ Cross said. “And I’m not like a boxer. I’m only going to do this once.”

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Cross has been a mainstay in the 49ers’ line for years, playing both guard and center during his career. He’s a 3-time Pro Bowl selection and has seen the 49ers through the best and worst of times. He was on the 49er team in 1978 that finished 2-14, as well as the two that won Super Bowls.

Cross, of course, plans to make it 3 titles Sunday.

Cross plans to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. His father, Dennis, is a former television actor.

Add Cross: Quarterback Joe Montana seemed the 49er most affected by Cross’ announcement.

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“The saddest thing about Randy leaving is that it makes me the oldest player,” said Montana, 32.

Last Add Cross: He has long been one of the game’s most likeable and quotable players, a man not afraid to express an opinion.

Asked if Sunday’s game might at least provide an escape from the more pressing stories in Miami’s streets this week, Cross wondered whether escape was really so wonderful.

“Football’s as much an escape for the people who play the game as the ones that watch it,” he said. “That’s always been one of the prime criticisms of athletes in general. They’re pampered and taken care of for so many years that all of a sudden the big slobs can’t handle their lives. But they haven’t been trained to; so they don’t know what to do.”

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Wishy Walshy: Speaking of retirements, San Francisco Coach Bill Walsh did everything but confirm that his would be fact after Sunday’s game. Of course, as always with Walsh, you have to read between the lines.

“There’s been a lot of conjecture on that,” Walsh said. “We (Walsh and owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.) have discussed a number of times what the future would be with the 49ers and whether it would include me, and how.

“There have been stages of my career, and some of our local writers will understand, where I thought I should most likely retire, and turn a new coach over to our writers. But on Monday or Tuesday of next week, we will resolve what direction we will be going and how we’re going to facilitate it.”

This will be the NFL’s seventh championship game in Florida since the series began 23 years ago.

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But California still leads as a Super Bowl site with 8 of the first 22--including 4 at the Rose Bowl, 1 at San Diego, 1 at Stanford and 2 in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Of the 6 at Florida, 5 have been played in Miami, 1 at Tampa.

New Orleans, which leads all NFL cities with 6 Super Bowls, will be the site of game XXIV a year hence.

Paul Brown, the Cincinnati Bengals’ 80-year-old general manager who is making his second Super Bowl visit, might have been setting a Super Bowl record Sunday if, instead of hiring Sam Wyche in 1984, he had hired Bill Walsh in 1976.

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Or so NFL sources speculated this week.

During Brown’s final 8 years as a football coach, Walsh had been one of his assistants, developing quarterback Ken Anderson, among others.

But when he retired after the 1975 season, Brown passed up Walsh to hire Bill Johnson and then Homer Rice, Forrest Gregg and Wyche, who combined to extend Brown’s own losing record at Cincinnati another 12 years.

After Brown’s 55-59-1 in 1968-75, his 4 successors were 89-95 in 1976-87, including Wyche’s 4-12 in 1987.

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Even including Wyche’s turnaround 12-4 this season, the Bengals have won only 101 of the 200 games they’ve played since Brown quit coaching what was then an expansion team.

Walsh, meanwhile, has been a steady winner. Frustrated in 1976 that he hadn’t won Brown’s respect, Walsh left Cincinnati and headed for San Diego, where he developed Dan Fouts. Then after 2 years at Stanford, he rebuilt the 49ers into the NFL’s biggest winner of the 1980s.

Walsh supporters reason that if Brown had promoted him in 1976, the Bengals by now would have won several Super Bowls, having combined Walsh’s qualities as a coach with Brown’s as a recruiter.

When safety Tom Holmoe of the 49ers and backup quarterback Mike Norseth of the Bengals meet Sunday, it will not be as strangers.

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Both of them played at Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta.

Norseth, 4 years younger than Holmoe, was a ball boy when Holmoe was playing at the school, where, as a quarterback in 1977, he was named the Pacific League’s offensive player of the year. Holmoe also spent 3 years at defensive back and played some wide receiver, setting school records for the longest pass reception, 82 yards, and longest kickoff return, 93 yards.

When it was Norseth’s turn, he became an all-conference quarterback at Crescenta Valley and was the team’s kicker.

Quote Department:

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--Sam Wyche, Cincinnati coach, on his first NFL protege when they were together in San Francisco: “I’m pulling for Joe Montana. I hope he doesn’t win the game, but I’m pulling for him to play well.”

--Ickey Woods, Cincinnati fullback: “Primarily I’m a bruising type of runner, an Earl Campbell type, but I have the speed to get around the corner. So I’m just a versatile back that’s trying to get from Point A to Point B as fast as I can.”

--Tim Krumrie, Cincinnati nose tackle, on his hometown, Mondovi, Wis.: “I own a small business there. It’s a small town. You can see from one end of town to the other. We’re going to lobby for a (stoplight) after this game. We don’t have a lot of nightclubs or anything. Everybody just plays a lot of softball.”

--Michael Carter, San Francisco nose tackle, on his track and field career as a shotputter: “I miss it a lot, but I’m trying to put it aside because it’s behind me. I miss the one-on-one competition, the pressure on your shoulders because you are the event. I can’t rely on 21 other guys to help me out.”

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Times staff writers Bob Oates in Miami and Maryann Hudson in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


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