THE MAN ON THE Street died suddenly yesterday. He was 72.

He was stricken around midday while standing on a downtown street corner, talking to two reporters and a pollster.A bystander said The Man on the Street had been discussing the most recent election returns when he collapsed.

A confidant of journalists and political pundits for many years, The Man on the Street was a familiar figure to generations of Americans. He was considered by many to be virtually indestructible.

He is survived by his wife, The Lady Next Door, his son, Your Average Cab Driver, and two grandchildren, The Coming Generation.

Statements of praise and condolence poured in immediately upon the announcement of his death.

Rowland Evans and Robert Novak:

"The sentiment in Middle America suggests that the death of The Man on the Street may portend much more than the passing of one individual, and may have calamitous results. Our door-to-door survey of 27 voters in Elgin, Ill., with the aid of three members of Patrick Caddell's Cambridge Research Associates, leads to the conclusion that the country has taken this news with a quiet confidence, but also with a feeling that a page has been turned -- and perhaps darkly turned -- in our national politics."

Joseph Kraft:

"The global significance can hardly be overlooked. In an age of confrontation, he served as a common denominator. As we face the national debate on the SALT agreement, his loss will be sorely felt."

Jack Anderson:

"There is something suspicious about the death of The Man on the Street. Carter officials say that his death occurred from natural causes. But a number of people at lower levels in the administration feel that, because of the recent public opinion polls, The Man on the Street was considered to be less than desirable."

Carl Rowan:

"Sure, I liked The Man on the Street, but he was 72 years old and he was white and he was comparatively well-to-do. If he'd been a black man, he'd probably have died at about 60. Sure, I mourn his death. But there are an awful lot of youngsters in an awful lot of ghettos who are going to die a long time before they reach the age of The Man on the Street."

James J. Kilpatrick:

"Bully for him. He died when he wanted to. He wasn't on Medicare, and I say, hoo-ray."

George Will:

"Public opinion in truth has not changed since the Middle Ages when Pope Augustus promulgated his bull proclaiming all men are equal under God's friendly eye."

Hobart Rowan:

"The Man on the Street died believing that the market had turned the corner. That prospect of economic sunshine, no matter how comforting it may be to some, is belied by the latest economic indicators and is not shared by many of the insiders of the Carter administration."

Mary McGrory:

"The Man on the Street, who died yesterday, had served his country as a private in the Army in World War I. His death and his life were suitably noted by the press and by figures in government. Thousands of other veterans, however, won't share the same eulogies. For they fought in the discredited war in Vietnam. And whether they live another year or die doesn't seem to be of much importance to the Carter administration."

Jimmy Breslin:

"Yeah, I knew him. We used to have him over to the house sometimes. He was a nice guy. That's about what you could say about The Man on the Street -- he was a nice guy. So when I told my wife, the former Rosemary Dattolico, when I told her: "The Man on the Street died today,' she said: 'It must have been the noise from the Concorde.'"

Eric Sevareid:

"It may be, as some modern pundits say, that eras, which history used to measure in generations, can now be measured in years or even months. That may or may not be so. But the era of The Man on the Street -- who died today in Washington -- can surely be measured as a long span of American history. To many of us in wartime and in postwar America, he served as something of a benchmark. For the country, he was something of a standard. For reporters -- some reporters -- such as this one -- he was a beacon... and a friend. In his death we see a reflection of our own mortality. And we shall not see his like soon again."

Ear:

"What a Marvy send-off for The Man on the Street! Just after the old gent popped off, Steve Martindale put together a Super Wake at Jacquelines. He invited all the journalistic Biggies who were close to The Man, which means just about tout les scribes. But what about that bureau chief who had a tad too much and dumped oyster frise on the lap of the State Department's Lady-in-Waiting? Ear's Uncle Oscar ate succotash in front of his TV."