The play occurred during the second inning between the Phillies and Rays at Tropicana Field on Thursday, with right-hander Brett Myers snapping off a 3-2 slider that Baldelli checked his swing on.
Danley raised his hand as an umpire might typically do on a strike, but instead, he pointed to first to award a walk to Baldelli. Then in the next instant, he double-checked with first-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth, who ruled no swing and confirmed a walk.
Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said that Danley had ruled ball four before asking Culbreth for help.
"The clear action was that the umpire, Kerwin Danley, audibly said, 'Ball,'" Solomon said. "There was also a checked swing. In his effort to point down to first base and the first-base umpire, he made a confusing mechanical gesture with his arm. He admits that the mechanic he used was a little bit confusing."
Mike Port, MLB's vice president of umpiring, also acknowledged momentary confusion. Though Danley told Port he had verbally called a ball, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel never heard the "ball" call and briefly argued with Danley, while Myers looked in to ask what had happened.
"His intention was to go to first base for help on the half-swing, on a pitch that he had called a ball," Port said. "He just started off with the wrong signal or mechanic, and quickly tried to correct it by going to first."
The walk set up a run-scoring inning for the Rays. Dioner Navarro singled to right-center prior to Baldelli's at-bat, and Jason Bartlett followed Baldelli with a sharp single to third to load the bases.
With two outs, B.J. Upton singled to right, scoring Navarro, though Baldelli was thrown out at home on a perfect throw from Jayson Werth in right field to end the inning. Solomon said that Danley's arm pump -- while not textbook -- was intended as a ball-four call.
"Umpires are human beings, and human beings sometimes do have different ways of doing the same thing," Solomon said. "Yes, we do try to have consistency in mechanics that are very clear and not confusing. However, in that particular case, given the check swing and the fact he was reaching toward first base, you can see how sometimes you can make a movement that would confuse some.
"You have many different things happening at one time, and I'm surprised that umpires are able to keep all these things in check and do all the things that they do out on the field. It's just an unfortunate confusing mechanic that ultimately had no real bearing on the game, because it was a ball and [Baldelli] did walk."
Umpiring crews have been visible in the first two games of the World Series. Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels executed a pickoff of the Rays' Carlos Pena in Game 1 that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon protested had been an uncalled balk, and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins was denied a hit-by-pitch in the ninth inning of Game 2 when an offering from lefty David Price appeared to graze his jersey.
"I think they are well within the nature of the things we do in baseball," Port said. "There have been some times in the game when mistakes are made. The idea is for a team to score enough runs to overcome anything that happens in the course of the game -- whether it's a runner being thrown out, an umpire misses a call, the third baseman misses a ball."
Of the Rollins phantom ball that might have been a hit-by-pitch, Port said, "The key word is 'might.' That's not the way it was seen by the man who had the plate and the responsibility."
Port commended the work of the six-man umpiring crew through the first two games, saying, "Going the other way, they've made some very good calls, but by the nature of things, those go generally unnoticed."
Added Solomon: "I think they've done a very good job. In a pressure-packed situation, I thought [Game 1 umpire Tim] Welke did a good job behind the plate. I think they've had some very difficult calls to make. Kerwin Danley did a great job. It was unfortunate we had that little situation, but other than that, the game was very well called."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.