McAleer returned to Youngstown, where he spent his last years. Active in the community, McAleer served on the city's original draft board, which had been authorized under Ohio Governor James M. Cox during World War I. In retirement, the former baseball manager maintained friendships with celebrities including George M. Cohan and King Alfonso XIII of Spain. McAleer became acquainted with the Spanish monarch during a European tour with the Red Sox in the winter of 1912–1913.
His final years were marked by poor health. Several weeks before his death, McAleer was admitted to a local hospital, where his health reportedly improved. This account, however, differs from that of baseball historian David Fleitz, who suggested that McAleer had been diagnosed with cancer in the early 1930s. In any event, McAleer died suddenly on April 29, 1931, shortly after being released from the hospital. He was 66 years old. After private funeral services at Orr's funeral home, McAleer's remains were interred at Oak Hill Cemetery, on Youngstown's near south side. Apart from his widow, he left behind two brothers, J.C. McAleer of Austintown, Ohio, and Owen McAleer of Los Angeles. Other survivors included two nephews, Captain Charlies McAleer, an officer in the U.S. Army, and James McAleer of Los Angeles.
Rumors persist that McAleer's death was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. While his name is included on some lists of Major League Baseball players who committed suicide, contemporary newspaper accounts indicated that McAleer died of natural causes.
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