Today’s blog celebrates the memory of another Michigan man with a great nickname. Joseph G. “Dynamite Joe” Gembis was born on this day in 1907. Joe Gembis came to Ann Arbor from Vicksburg, Michigan in the fall of 1926. He has many different connections to the long history of Michigan football. His first connection is that he was on the last team that was coached by the legendary Fielding H. Yost. (Note-Gembis technically did not play for Yost, but he was on the freshman team in 1926 and probably saw plenty of Mr. “Hurry Up.”)
In his Sophomore year, Gembis, who wore #43, played for new Michigan coach, Elton “Tad” Wieman. He was one of a very few men in Michigan football history to play the first season in Michigan Stadium. I don’t know when he got the nickname “Dynamite Joe,” but it may have happened in 1927. Maybe that is when Gembis established himself as a hard hitting, pile driving running back that hit people and holes in the line in an explosive manner! Although he wasn’t credited with any starts in 1927, he earned enough playing time to get a letter on a team that finished with a record of 6-2-0.
The good news for Joe Gembis in 1928 was that he started five games of eight games fullback. The bad news was that the team finished with a record of only 3 wins, 4 losses and 1 tie. Unfortunately for Coach Wieman, those numbers meant that he was finished at Michigan. Fielding Yost had a new stadium to fill and a losing team did not help him pay the bills like he had hoped. Yost looked to East Lansing for a solution to fill his coaching vacancy. He lured his former All-American player, Harry Kipke, back to Ann Arbor to lead the Wolverines.
Joe’s senior year was another year of transition for him and for Michigan. He was playing for his third coach in four years. He must have impressed Coach Kipke with his ability because he started eight of nine games. Five of his starts were at full back and three of them were at right halfback. The team improved their overall record and finished the season with 5 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. They weren’t as good in the conference since a record of 1-3-1 saddled them with a tie for eighth place.
The Wikipedia article linked below has a few more details about Joe’s life after Michigan. “Dynamite Joe “ left his family, friends and Wolverine Nation on July 5, 1969 at the age of sixty-one. Today is a good day to remember the accomplishments of Michigan Man Joe Gembis. Rest in peace Wolverine!