Baseball may be as American as apple pie, but a man who built a professional ballfield in his back yard is breaking the law by bringing in too many people, according to a judge in Newark.

Bill Ingraham broke zoning laws in Tewksbury (N.J.) Township with round-the-clock games on his regulation-size diamond, Superior Court Judge Victor Ashrafi said Monday. The ruling came in a two-year-old lawsuit filed by township officials and neighbors who said the 12-hour days of games, traffic and noise shattered their privacy and peace of mind.

While agreeing with township officials that the field violated zoning laws, Ashrafi rejected arguments that the field was a public nuisance. "Children playing baseball cannot easily be branded a nuisance," he wrote. "One might as well say that apple pie is poison.

"But the fact that baseball for kids is wholesome and patriotic does not mean that full-scale games, practices and training can be held anywhere," Ashrafi added.

Ingraham, a label company owner, spent nearly $300,000 to build the field and an indoor pool house in 1996, and sent out fliers advertising a "Field of Dreams Academy," with classes for youngsters and a 35-and-over league. Ashrafi ruled that Ingraham, his wife and two children can play baseball any time they want with up to eight guests, but they can have larger groups just once a month. The ruling also bans uniforms, aluminum bats, night games, loudspeakers and outdoor lighting.

Venues

NBA to Baltimore?

Baltimore planning director Charles C. Graves III said yesterday he has had conversations with several NBA teams about relocating to Baltimore, which is in the early stages of trying to build a new sports arena to replace the aging Baltimore Arena.

"We've talked to several teams and some have expressed some interest," Graves said. "We need to build a new arena. So the question is what size facility and who could be the tenant."

Baltimore Arena was built in 1961 and seats roughly 12,000. One study released in April suggested the possibility of building an 18,000-seat facility at a cost of $200 million, but Graves said the ultimate size would hinge on whether Baltimore is able to get a team. If there is no NBA team, the facility would likely have 12,000 seats, he said. Graves added that the source of revenue to build such a facility has not yet been determined.

Graves would not say which teams he has talked to, but the Associated Press reported he has had conversations with the San Antonio Spurs and the Sacramento Kings.

Olympics

Coles Gets Support

Australian International Olympic Committee member Phil Coles should not be expelled from the Olympic movement for preparing secret dossiers on other members, IOC Vice President Dick Pound said. Pound told Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper that "there wouldn't be too many IOC members around" if they faced dismissal for gathering information on fellow delegates.

"I would have thought the amount of attention gathered [on Coles] is far in excess of anything he's done," the Canadian said. "My understanding is candidate cities share information all the time."

The IOC meets in Seoul on Monday to vote on whether to expel Coles for his role in preparing dossiers of private information about his colleagues.

Swimming

Gold Medalist Retires

Olympic champion Michelle Smith de Bruin ended her swimming career, insisting she did not use drugs and hoping she did not disgrace her country. Her announcement came one day after the Irish swimmer lost her appeal of a four-year ban for manipulating a urine sample.

Smith won three gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The 29-year-old swimmer is ineligible for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2001 world championships. . . .

In a further setback to China's antidoping efforts, two Chinese swimmers--including one who already served a two-year ban for steroid use--have failed drug tests, a Chinese swimming official said. Gunnar Werner, honorary secretary of FINA, swimming's international governing body, said Xiong Guoming, who won gold at last year's Asian Games after having served his ban, and Wei Wang tested positive for the drug clenbuterol in an out-of-competition test on March 8.

Tennis

Hingis Fined

Martina Hingis was fined $1,500 by the International Tennis Federation for crossing the netline in the French Open final against Steffi Graf. Hingis, who lost in three sets to Graf on Saturday, also was given a warning for smashing her racket and was penalized a point for crossing the line to argue a call with the umpire and a line judge.

The ITF declined to confirm a report in the Daily Telegraph that Hingis was involved in a "physical incident" with a WTA Tour official after the match. . . .

Andre Agassi, who has an injured thigh, withdrew from a Wimbledon tuneup in Halle, Germany, two days after winning the French Open. Agassi plans to return to the United States for treatment and intends to play Wimbledon, which starts June 28.

CAPTION: A judge banned uniforms, aluminum bats, night games, outdoor lighting and loudspeakers at Bill Ingraham's field.