Joe was born in October of 1918 in Tacoma and was a 1937 graduate of Lincoln High School. A two-sport athlete in high school, Joe excelled in baseball and football. He played outfield and first base for the Cougars at Washington State College and was also a member of the football team that played Texas A & M in Stadium Bowl in Tacoma on the eve of the Pearl Harbor invasion.
Hemel played outfield on numerous City, Valley, and Timber League baseball teams including Superior Dairy (1936); Model Lumber (1937-38); Smelter AC (1939); Enumclaw (1941); Slovic Americans (1935-38); Western State, and Consumer Meets (1939-40). He also coached at Rockford (1950-51) where his team won the Spokane County title; Cathlamet (1951-52) where they won the Tri-County championship; and at the College of Puget Sound (1953-59). A teacher by trade, Joe was instrumental in coordinating the annual Baseball-Softball Oldtimers Banquet and kept it going for many years at the Poodle Dog Restaurant in Fife.