Tucked away in a corner booth of a sparsely occupied Eagle Rock coffee shop, Frank Pace and Armen Keteyian fondly reminisce on the plethora of notable accomplishments they’ve accumulated in their nearly 30-year working relationship and friendship.
The conversation bandies between their early days at a small public relations firm in San Diego to Pace’s Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy girls’ soccer team to their work in major network television to their relationships with major sports stars such as Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew.
Once the pair begins to delve into their decorated past, it’s hard not to be captivated.
They have developed an engaging rapport over the years, bringing to life their past exploits with humor and vivid detail.
And while there isn’t a stampede of adoring fans lining up for autographs at this cozy diner — just a friendly waitress making the occasional pit stop — the impact the two have collectively made in the world of sports and entertainment is undeniable.
The pair has combined to garner over 20 Emmy nominations, started up an Olympic sport, co-wrote a book for Carew on hitting and the list goes on.
Pace has branched out to the world of television, where he has produced over 500 episodes of network TV, including hit shows like “Murphy Brown” and “George Lopez.”
Keteyian has become a fixture as a national reporter, where he is currently the chief investigative correspondent for CBS News in New York. Previously he spent years working as a writer for Sports Illustrated, a sideline and special features reporter for CBS Sports and as a special correspondent for HBO Sports’ award-winning magazine show “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”
Throughout the course of their relationship, their paths have separated at times, but they always seem to find a way to work together again. And the results are usually off the charts.
“I trust him, I respect him,” Keteyian said. “He has one of the best Geiger counters for whether something’s going to work, how it’s going to work and whether it’s worth my time.”
Added Pace: “We are both secure in what we do professionally so we can root for each other to succeed. [The] majority of the people who do what we do root for people to fail so they can boost themselves up. We root for each other.”
The tale of Keteyian and Pace has its roots in San Diego. Pace was working for the Phillips Organisation, a place he describes as “a funky, Pacific beach sports marketing firm,” when he first met and hired Keteyian in early 1980.
While Phillips was far from a household name in the sports world at the time, it was blessed with some top-end clients, including Ektelon, the world’s No. 1 racquetball company, Speedo, the country’s No. 1 swimwear company, and Pony, one of the country’s top athletic shoe companies.
It was an opportunity for the upstart pair to compete with the heavyweights of the sports world.
“It was an advantage to me to go through what I did at Phillips before my career took off in a different direction,” said Keteyian, who has gone on to pen nine books, including his first about racquetball through contacts he made while at Phillips.
Among the notable feats the pair accomplished while at Phillips was to create the United States Triathlon series, which eventually transpired into an Olympic sport.
San Diego was a hotbed for triathletes at the time and Pace and Keteyian were quick to capitalize, gaining a national sponsor for the series to get it off the ground and eventually watch it morph into a burgeoning sport.
“We pretty much invented an Olympic sport — the short-course triathlon,” said Pace, who is set to embark on his 11th season as the Sacred Heart co-coach this season alongside Kathy Desmond.
“Well, Frank did, I just wrote the press releases,” Keteyian quipped.
The triathlon series was just the beginning, as their next major accomplishment came in the media capital of America.
Through the company’s affiliation with Pony, Pace and Keteyian were put in charge of orchestrating Reggie Jackson’s return-to-New York press conference in 1982 after he had jumped ship to the California Angels. It was the first time Jackson had been back in New York since Yankees owner George Steinbrenner elected not to bring Jackson back after his contract ended in 1981.
“Reggie hits a home run off [Ron] Guidry to win the game and the entire New York crowd was chanting ‘Steinbrenner sucks, Steinbrenner sucks,’” Pace said. “For us to go into New York City and pull that off, it was a pretty big confidence boost.”
Gaining the opportunity to work with elite organizations and companies while at Phillips eventually paid dividends for Pace and Keteyian.
“From my perspective, I found that I could compete professionally on a national stage and hold my own with guys who had big reputations and big names,” said Pace, who got his first taste of producing television shows while at Phillips when he produced the Pro Racquetball Series for ESPN during its infant stage as a network.
Added Keteyian: “Phillips Organisation was a vehicle for us to follow our own paths, our own dreams.”
After their time together at Phillips ended, the twosome reunited in 1986 to co-write the book “Rod Carew’s Art and Science of Hitting” with the Hall of Fame infielder Carew.
Pace first became Carew’s agent in 1982 and was quick to include Keteyian on the project. Carew couldn’t have been happier with how the book turned out.
“They are easy to work with,” said Carew, who was an 18-time All-Star during his days with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels. “Talk about two guys [with] great character. You couldn’t want to work with two better guys than these two guys. And that’s why we’ve remained friends for such a long time. I trust them.”
Trust is something Pace put in Keteyian when he was producing the television movie “A Winner Never Quits,” the story of one-armed baseball player Pete Gray.
A crucial sequence in the movie called for Gray’s character to make a leaping catch and Pace didn’t trust an actor to do it.
So he called upon Keteyian, a former San Diego State baseball player, to give it a shot.
“There was one small problem, I couldn’t wear my glasses,” said Keteyian, who has worn glasses most of his life. “I had to do this catch and couldn’t see real well. It was a lot of fun and I pulled it off.”
With strong sports backgrounds and nearly all of their previous work based in sports, Pace and Keteyian ventured outside the box for one of their more recent projects.
While Pace was producing the sitcom “George Lopez” for ABC, he brought up the idea of writing an autobiography to Lopez, who jumped at the idea.
Pace then introduced Keteyian to Lopez and the pair hit it off.
The result was the New York Times bestseller “Why You Crying,” which told the moving, hilarious and emotional story of Lopez’s rise from humble beginnings to his current status as a cultural icon.
“It’s really about finding the person’s voice that’s on the other side and then how much do they want to engage,” Keteyian said. “George, to his credit, really drilled down and emotionally opened up about a life so sad it had to be funny. … Frank was instrumental in keeping things on track with George.”
Even after working together in some capacity for nearly three decades, it’s easy to see the fire still burns inside both Keteyian and Pace. The tandem seems to have the Midas touch when they collaborate and that, combined with the respect and admiration they have for each other, keeps them coming back for more.
“Anytime he’s had an opportunity, I’ve been the first guy he’s called and anytime I’ve had an opportunity, he was the first guy that I called,” said Pace, who played college baseball and soccer at Jacksonville University, where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees. “You don’t find people that share your work ethic, you don’t find people that share your passion, you don’t find people that you can count on and you can trust.”
Added Keteyian: “Never in my whole life have I felt like Frank was doing something for Frank. It was always for us or to steer me in the right direction.”
Their latest venture is working as senior management and contributing writers for Hall of Fame Media, a multifaceted online entity featuring its flagship website — The Hall of Fame Network (hofn.com). Hall of Fame’s goal is to provide a branded destination and online portal/community for the Hall of Fame industry, sports museums, the multibillion-dollar collectible industry and the millions of passionate fans.
For Gil Vieira, managing partner and CEO of Hall of Fame Media, Pace and Keteyian’s involvement gave the network instant credibility.
“Being involved with the Hall of Fame industry is a prestigious industry,” said Vieira, who was college roommates with Pace. “I probably wouldn’t have taken this on without Armen and Frank. … Without them, we wouldn’t have the prestigious writers we have.”
The site launched in July of 2006 and two years later is still up and running and continuing to grow.
“If we were a million to one shot, we’re probably a half a million to one shot to be around two years from now,” Pace said. “But [Armen] and I are million to one shots. … There is really no reason for us to believe that this can’t get done.”
If Pace and Keteyian’s past history is any indicator of what is to come, Hall of Fame seems to be in good hands.