Ironically, neither Harvard MBA Stuebe, the bachelor son of a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and his German wife, nor Séjourné, 33, a sportswear designer of Haitian descent who married computer analyst Ed Rigaud last year, was all that big on baseball. But while brainstorming about starting a business together, the then-Palo Alto, Calif., neighbors decided that rethinking the baseball cap would be a home run. "The predominant hats are very boxy and stiff," says Stuebe. "We wanted ours to be soft and floppy, like you've been wearing them all your life."
Priced from $30 to $38, the caps, made by a staff of 27 in a San Francisco warehouse, were an instant hit: By 1997, Blue Marlin posted wholesale sales of $4 million. This year, sweatshirts and T-shirts joined the lineup. But the partners haven't forgotten their inspiration. Each hat includes a brief league history, and a small piece of the profit goes to nine surviving players. Says Stuebe: "The Negro Leagues were a forgotten era. We're doing something that pays tribute."
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